NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee State Flying Tiger Jordan Green is entering his third season as a member of the track and field team, looking to build off of his solid sophomore campaign.
Green had four top-10 finishes in 2013-14 and even ran a career-best time of 7.03 in the 60-meter dash in the Music City Challenge this time last year.
On paper, Green is another one of legendary track coach Chandra Cheeseborough’s rising juniors, but there was a time when Green was running from something much more than competitors on the track.
At the age of 14, Green was on the way to class during his first year in high school when his mother noticed something else off about her son, besides his pubescent body. Green had a lump on his neck that was not only noticeable to the touch, but also to the naked eye. The knot concerned his mother, but Green chalked it up to carrying around a heavy book bag and life went on.
The abscess did not recess over the course of the next week and Green’s mother thought it was high time to take him to the family’s pediatrician. It turned out to be a story that’s heard far too often: doctor prescribes antibiotics, they don’t work and it is back to square one.
“Back then I really wasn’t concerned because I had never had any type of disease,” Green remembers. “I could see that my parents were anxious because both of my grandmothers had been diagnosed with lung cancer. My parents started worrying about my well-being, but at the time, I was just concerned with making good grades and staying on the track team.”
After a follow-up with the pediatrician, it was determined that any further prognosis would need to have use of a biopsy.
On Halloween night, while Green’s friends were out trick-or-treating, he was sitting in another doctor’s office getting skin cut off of his neck. In addition to the pain of surgery and the pain of missing one of his last Halloweens as a kid, Green now had to suffer the hardest part – waiting for his results.
“I didn’t want to tell anyone, friends or family, until me and my parents knew what it was. At that point I was pretty nervous because the doctor said it could be malignant. I didn’t even know what that word meant back then,” Green said with a smile.
There were no smiles when the news came on Nov. 8. Green and his mother were crammed in yet another tiny doctor’s office when a practitioner entered to relay the message.
Green was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma Stage 2, a type of cancer that affects white blood cells around the lymph nodes.
“Words were being said around me about treatment plans, costs and timetables, but I was zoned out to all of it. I kept thinking that this wasn’t happening to me and I couldn’t have cancer at 14 years old. I eventually woke up and thought ‘ok let’s do it. Let’s beat this thing,’” Green said.
Even with his determination, a bit of Green’s happiness waned and he became a shut-in. There were no more smiles, no more laughs, he went from his room to school, and then from school to his room.
Treatment was also hard for him. Green had to stay overnight in a hospital Friday-Sunday to take countless pills, shots and scans. While all of those remedies were making him healthier, they all came with side-effects.
Green, who used to be known for his braids, began losing his hair including one memorable moment in his algebra class:
“My head was itching, and usually I just patted it lightly, but this time I must have scratched too hard. I itched at my hairline and when I looked at my hand, some of my hair had come out and left a bald spot. I will never forget that a girl in my class made a big scene about it. I broke down and ran out of the room. Later that night, I got my uncle to cut all my hair off.
“I looked in the mirror, but it wasn’t me anymore… I thought to myself ‘I am only in the ninth grade, will I even make it to the 10th?”
Finally, after six months of treatment, chemotherapy and radiation eradicated most of the cancer. It looked like Green would in fact make it to 10th grade and well beyond.
“It was a huge sigh of relief for me and my parents,” Green said. “My mom had to give me shots every night, no one in my family was sleeping well and it was just hard on everybody. It was a painful time for my family, so we were all very relieved when the good news came.”
A few years later, Green was training with a family friend Derrick Spease in a gym when Tennessee State University was brought up. Spease had also helped train former Big Blue footballer and current Baltimore Raven Anthony Levine, and he thought TSU would be the perfect fit for Green.
It turned out he was right.
Green has been running with the track team for two years and helped the Flying Tigers take third-place in the Ohio Valley Conference Indoor Championship a season ago. Even with his athletic success, Green has cherished his friendships and teammates even more.
“I would not trade this crazy bunch of teammates for anyone else in the world. We are a family; I have opened up to them about my past and they have been so supportive.
“I am grateful for Tennessee State and I thank God each and every day because it all could have been taken. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the time I had cancer. I appreciate every day that I am given because I wouldn’t even be here if my mom wouldn’t have pointed out that lump six years ago.”