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James Conner's Cancer Survival Story — He Stayed Alive Despite a Bleak Prognosis

Oyin Balogun
Apr 16, 2021
07:40 A.M.

Almost six years ago, NFL running back James Conner's world nearly came crashing down. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma with a terrifying prognosis. Find out how he survived and managed to keep his career.


Every once in a while, an inspirational miracle story pops up where it is least expected. James Conner is an NFL running back whose budding career was threatened by an alarming cancer diagnosis on a fateful day in 2015.

Now, nearly six years after, Conner is back to great health and uses his incredible story of survival against all odds to inspire many others out there. Learn more about Conner's incredible fight against cancer.

James Conner looks on during the NFL football game on September 15, 2019 | Photo: Getty Images

James Conner looks on during the NFL football game on September 15, 2019 | Photo: Getty Images


Football running back James Conner played for the Pittsburgh Steelers for a couple of years until recently when he signed a deal with the Arizona Cardinals.

Born as the youngest of five boys to his parents, Kelly and Glen, Conner started his football career in his Pennsylvania high school as a running back and defensive lineman.


After leaving high school, he committed to college football at the University of Pittsburgh and played for the Pittsburgh Panthers until 2015, when tragedy struck his life and budding career in the form of cancer.



On December 4, 2015, James Conner shocked many when he revealed that he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. This traumatizing discovery came after he tore his medial collateral ligament and took a break to rehab for the torn ligament.

During this time off, the running back reportedly had trouble sleeping and decided to go to the hospital. On getting tests done, the doctors discovered tumors around his neck and chest, after which he was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The illness was so severe that the doctors said he would have had only a week left to live if he had come in any later. He revealed that the tumors were progressing rapidly and needed immediate treatment during an episode of the podcast "Ya Neva Know: ya know what I mean?"



Following the terrifying prognosis given to him by the doctors, Conner promptly started chemotherapy. The now-25-year-old said that telling his family was incredibly difficult.

In 2019, the running back touched hearts when he agreed to meet a fan who battled a rare type of cancer.

Through it all, James Conner's parents, siblings, friends, and fans stuck by his side. During the winter and spring, the sportsman spent his days undergoing treatments and gave everyone plenty of reason to jubilate when he finally earned a cancer-free bill of health in May 2016.


Through his fight against cancer, Conner refused to let the illness shoot him down. In what remains one of the greatest shows of resilience in the NFL, he continued to train and do drills while still undergoing treatments.

In May 2016, Conner announced that he was in remission from Hodgkin's Lymphoma and proceeded to build his career with the same resilience and grit that pushed him through such a difficult time.



After he was declared cancer-free in May 2016, Conner went on to land a spot with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2017 NFL draft. While carrying on with his football career, Conner has made it a thing of great importance to use his spectacular experience to inspire others.

In 2019, the running back touched hearts when he agreed to meet a fan who battled a rare type of cancer. In July 2020, he made fans smile again when he revealed that he bought his mother a new house.


He posted her reaction in a now-deleted Tweet and thanked her for sacrificing so much for him to be successful. He also surprised his dad with a brand new truck.

During the pandemic, many cancer survivors in the NFL decided to opt out of the season. Conner, however, said that he never considered opting out. He said that he was at peak health and unbothered about playing amid the pandemic.

James Conner's cancer story and his journey to the wonderful life he lives now continue to inspire and give many hope. The 25-year-old makes a great son, a great football player, and most importantly, a great fighter.

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