A gymnast is, arguably, one of the most in shape people on the planet. Evan Van Aacken has been in gymnastics since age 3 following in the footsteps of his sister, Gabrielle, and his brother, Anthony, and is currently a level 10 gymnast competing for Swiss Turners Gymnastics Academy in West Allis, WI.
When not in the gym, Evan enjoys gaming online, movies, inviting friends over with their gaming systems, and other activities with friends and family.
Evan is a sophomore at Oshkosh West High School in Oshkosh, Wisconsin doing well in his studies. Like other students, he does not enjoy homework, yet oddly is almost always done before going to practice. Practice is usually six times a week averaging 3 hours per day. Yet, he is not practicing completely at the local Oshkosh Gymnastics Center (http://ogcgym.com/
) as he had been. In October 2011, his head coach decided to move on. So the family made the hard decision to commute to West Allis, a suburb of Milwaukee, four times a week to advance his skills at Swiss Turners Gymnastics Academy (https://www.swissturnersgymnastics.com/
). (Since mid-August 2012, the familiy has put on over 111,000 miles primarily for gymnastics practices!)
In 2015, as a level 9 gymnast, Evan was the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic National High Bar champion, placed 3rd on Vault, 8th All-Around (6 events), and won day 2 of All-Around Finals competition. Yet on Wednesday night January 25, 2017, this 15-year-old elite gymnast starting competing against something nobody should ever have to compete against: Cancer
Evan had been experiencing a pain in his "groin" for about 3 weeks when he brought it to my attention. I asked the typical things of a parent: did you fall or get hit? I asked him to let me know if the pain continued. Well, the pain continued and a week later, on Wednesday night (Jan 25) (around 4 weeks of inconsistent pain), he reminded his mom and I of his pain. After clarifying what his “groin” was, we discussed about checking himself... He went and showered and checked himself and found a mass...
Up to this point we had never considered educating Evan on how to check himself...
Medical procedures started in a flash: Urgent Care Clinic validated a mass; then Ultrasound; next a Urologist confirmed a mass and scheduled a radical orchiectomy for Monday (Jan 30).
We were shell shocked! We decided to go to Swiss to keep up his spirits and the Swiss Family came through! Evan had a great practice and was recharged!
The surgery came and went. We were nervous because of surgery and results of the biopsy. Evan was out of school for a week and gymnastics for 4 to 6 weeks! But his health had to come first! Evan had no restrictions: we get him back to school, the gym, and any part of life that had been on hold.
Thursday (Feb 2), results: The mass is a non-seminoma embryonal carcinoma with no apparent metastasis: Testicular Cancer. Next a CT scan from the neck to upper thighs to check for other tumors; finding: small tumor in his lung. Referred to Oncology: PET/CT scan; tumor in his lung has grown to 10mm and has motility: cancer has spread to his lung. Chemotherapy treatment plan starting March 6: four 3-week cycles (Week 1: 5 daily 3-hour sessions of chemo; Weeks 2 & 3: recover).
Chemo week 1: Really hit Evan on Wednesday, he could hardly move. Thursday he had behind-the-wheel DMV test: PASSED; then school. Friday he couldn't make the whole day of school. He needed the weekend to recover. By the following Monday, he was back in school and to practice!
After the two weeks of recovery, with a PICC line in his right arm, on Sunday March 26, he had the 2017 Wisconsin State Gymnastics meet (https://youtu.be/y_RlcRNv-tE
). He started on Rings and peeled off one hand causing his arm to be hurt... came back to WIN Vault and place 5th on P-Bars. You could tell he was running out of energy on High-Bar, his favorite event. He sat out Floor. Then came back to take 2nd place on Pommel Horse.
The following week was chemo week 2 which hit him harder than week 1 and he had to have a shot to help boost his white blood cell count which made his bones ache. Yet 8 days after his last dose of chemo, he competed at the 2017 Region IV Championships (https://youtu.be/ndagPgy1woQ
)! Evan started on Floor; 2nd place on Pommel Horse; Rings; tied for 2nd place on Vault; tied for 8th place P-Bars, then High-Bar. Somehow he had enough energy to complete all 6 events! After the meet Evan was recognized for what his is going through and was given a standing ovation; then another when he was on the podium for 2nd place on Pommel...
Dan Coon (Region IV Director) wrote:
'After the AA winners had been awarded and recognized, an announcement was made that the Qualifiers to J.O. Nationals would be introduced.
"Beginning in ascending order the 15th qualifier..., 14th Qualifier is: Evan Van Aacken."
The folks in the stands exploded; standing and cheering and beating the bleacher floor plates.
Then something extraordinary happened. The gymnasts in the session had been sitting on the FX area in front of the awards stand. Spontaneously, quietly for a second, in mass, as though something had erupted from the earth, they all stood in unison with their arms raised, then they began pumping the air, applauding and cheering Evan, who quietly stood on the podium smiling. The arena reverberated with the sound of family, friends, people who didn't know him, and suddenly his team mates, celebrating what he had accomplished, and----what he his success had done for them.'
Evan's Standing Ovation (https://youtu.be/NVkRhW2lgmw
Evan Van Aacken will be in Florida, competing All-Around at USA Gymnastics J.O. Nationals, May 10-14, 2017. This will be two and a half weeks after his third cycle of 5-daily chemo treatments. His final week of chemo will be the week following J.O. Nationals.
Evan has been an inspiration to all through this. His level of determination and strength has been impressive. The support Evan as received from our family; Swiss, OGC, Salto, WI State, and Region IV gymnastics families; friends; co-workers; and others has been equally impressive and humbling. Thank you all for your positive thoughts, prayers, cards, meals, and blankets.
Many have asked to hear about his fight with cancer or tell their child about Evan's fight. Evan has been willing for all to know because him having cancer is "a fact". Our family wants everyone to mandate every man in your life, especially those 12 to 45, to do a self exam! Most younger men, including Evan, don't know what to check for: www.testicularcancerawarenessfoundation.org/self-exam-how-to/ (http://www.testicularcancerawarenessfoundation.org/self-exam-how-to/
). A tumor can DOUBLE IN A MONTH! When in doubt, consult a professional! Early detection can save a life!
Evan's Athlete Profile page: http://swissturnersboosterclub.org/wiki/Athletes/VanAacken.Evan
Evan's YouTube Playlist of his gymnastics: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEC3E5DFF993AC496