06/13/2014 05:39 pm ET Updated Jun 16, 2014

How Cancer Helped This NFL Player Rebuild His Identity

What would you do if, all of a sudden, the roots of your personal identity were ripped from your life entirely? Would you know how or where to start over again?

New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich faced these painful questions as he fought Ewing’s sarcoma during his years at Boston College. He joined HuffPost Live host Marc Lamont Hill today to discuss his journey in rebuild, which he shares in his new book What It Takes.

“All of a sudden I had no identity,” said Herzlich. “I wasn’t able to really put my thumb on who I was, and it hurt my pride. And this loss of identity was scary for me because so much of what I had done was so physically based that this new mental strain along with the physical strain was something that I had to find a way to get through.”

Despite feeling like he had lost his life’s work, his football family and himself, Herzlich discovered a new foundation upon which he could stand.

“I remember thinking what a man was and the identity of a man,” he said. “It was being physical, it was being a leader and it was not being vulnerable. And then I was taken that physical strength away and my confidence was gone. That’s when I met my fiancé, Danielle Conti. She came into my life and made me realize that even though I was bald and had no eyebrows and was dumpy and sick and tired that being a man wasn’t about how strong I was or how tough I was. It was about my ability to help her feel safe, help myself with confidence. And that was huge for me.”

To hear more about Mark Herzlich’s personal journey, watch the full HuffPost Live clip in the video above.