In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press today, Olympic swimmer Eric Shanteau revealed that he was diagnosed with testicular cancer several weeks before the Olympic trials earlier this year. When he made the team, Shanteau was then faced with the choice of whether to undergo immediate surgery, as his doctors recommended, or to compete at the Olympics. Click here to read more.
"I was sort of like, 'This isn't real. There's no way this is happening to me right now,'" Shanteau said. "You're trying to get ready for the Olympics, and you just get this huge bomb dropped on you."
Luckily for Shanteau, the doctors determined his cancer was treatable and had not spread, so it wouldn't be a risk to compete in the Olympic trials.
Now, Shanteau's putting off surgery until after Beijing because he doesn't want to disrupt his lifelong goal of swimming in the Olympics. The 24-year-old Georgia native will be monitored closely over the next month and vows to withdraw from the team if there's any sign his cancer is spreading.
"If I didn't make the team, the decision would have been easy: Go home and have the surgery," Shanteau said. "I made the team, so I had a hard decision. But, by no means am I being stupid about this."
Shanteau stressed he's not willing to risk his life just to compete in his first Olympics. But, after considering the benefits of immediate treatment, he decided to put off surgery because it would keep him out of the water for at least two weeks, ruining his Beijing preparations.
"I want the swimming aspect so badly," Shanteau said. "I know what I'm risking ... but it's basically just a longer recovery time. After the Olympics, I'll have nothing but time. That's why it wasn't too hard to make this decision."
After narrowly missing his chance to go to Athens in 2004, Shanteau was last seen in the news for beating the heavily favored Brendan Hansen in the US Olympic trials. Hansen had hoped to regain his 200m breaststroke world record at the games this year.
Though Shanteau faced a tough decision in waiting to have the surgery, the Mayo Clinic notes that testicular cancer is "highly treatable."