Palm Bay’s TJ Carroll Pirates Overcomes Tumor To Lead Pirates, Space Coast All-Stars To Victory
By Steve Wilson and Alan Zlotorzynski // March 8, 2016
PREP SPORTS COURAGE AWARD
BREVARD COUNTY • PALM BAY, FLORIDA – TJ Carroll was a defensive starter in his junior year for the Palm Bay Pirates, but if he was going to build on his success in 2014 in the 2015 season, he would have to battle to overcome a life threatening circumstance.
Carroll was diagnosed with a recurring deep aggressive fibromatosis condition, which is also called a desmoids tumor. Translation, TJ had a large aggressive tumor on his kidney that was growing. Over a two-year span, Carroll would undergo three surgeries.
Following each surgery, the news was not good as the tumor grew back larger and deeper. Prior to his last surgery on June 5 of last year, a portion of it had infiltrated into the peritoneum, which is the membrane lining the cavity of the abdomen, which covers the abdominal organs.
During that final surgery, the surgeon had to remove part of the muscle attached to his right iliac bone because the tumor grew through it. In fact, all of the tumor could not be removed, and in order to survive, TJ was forced to start life -saving proton radiation to stop this aggressive tumor before it harmed his kidneys or liver.
Love, Support From Family, Teammates
Carroll went to work and began physical therapy to help gain strength back in that area of muscle loss. He was forced to use a walker, but was determined to be back on the field with his teammates last fall. Carroll underwent radiation therapy at Jacksonville UF Health Center for six weeks, from July 6 until the second week of August, which as everyone knows is just mere days away from the start of the football season in Florida.
His family traveled and stayed overnight to ensure TJ would have the love and support he needed to battle through – and battle through TJ did. With the love and support from his family, friends, teammates and coaches, he returned to the gridiron in time for the Pirates’ week three contest vs. Melbourne, a 42-0 Pirate win.
TJ took his rightful place at center and anchored an offensive line that helped RB Brian Lankford-Johnson rush for 1,814 yards and 22 touchdowns. The Pirates returned to the playoffs in 2015, and Carroll’s play was a big reason why.
“Determination, courage, a fighting spirit are all words thrown around in coaching circles,” said Palm Bay head coach Dan Burke.
“As a football coach you try and prepare players for the toughest games they might encounter. What also happens is many times the player shows everyone that there is nothing that can’t be overcome with those qualities at work – and God on your side.
“In TJ’s situation it was a matter of life or death, with a large aggressive tumor on his kidney that was growing. It seemed like football would be out of the question. One thing we did was always leave his lock on his locker though, just as a sign that we believed in TJ’s will to overcome this tumor.”
Two-Way All-Star Player
Carroll was selected to play in the recent Florida East Coast All-Star Football game for the top seniors in the area that pits the Space Coast’s finest against the Treasure Coast. TJ was a big reason why the Space Coast team prevailed, playing both offense and defense.
TJ’s battle is not over as the tumor mass is still there. Upon completion of his final radiation treatment, he rang the Victory Bell at the Proton clinic, which signified the end of death and the beginning of life.
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