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HT 8/5/13 Panthers' show of solidarity

posted Aug 14, 2013, 6:41 PM by Ken Hay

Panthers' show of solidarity

Bloomington South soccer, football players shave heads for Cameron Bland

By Mike Miller

The promise was delivered in the driveway of Heather and Bob Bland’s southside Bloomington home Sunday afternoon.

It was unspoken but guaranteed by every lock of teenage hair that fell freely to the concrete below.

After he begins chemotherapy Thursday to treat kidney cancer, the days ahead may find Cameron Bland tired, weak and broken. But when his teammates on the Bloomington South football and soccer teams showed up in his driveway to shave their heads in solidarity, they made sure the promise was clear.

Cameron Bland isn’t fighting cancer on his own.

“Just having everyone here shows me how much I’m actually cared about,” Cameron said. “I know people cared, but when you actually have a lot of people show up for something like this, you can get a better feeling.”

These are strange days for Cameron, a kicker on the football team and a defender on the boys’ soccer squad at Bloomington South. After a routine checkup for mononucleosis early last month, doctors found a softball-sized tumor on his right kidney. The timing of it all was particularly difficult to reconcile. Days before, he was outside playing football and soccer with his friends, feeling fine.

Cameron had surgery two weeks ago to remove the infected tumor and is preparing for his first chemo treatment Thursday — less than 24 hours after the first day of his junior year at South.

Administrators at the school are doing all they can to help Cameron juggle his studies and his treatments. He’ll attend classes Monday through Wednesday, and for half a day on Thursdays. Then, he’ll receive chemotherapy at Riley Children’s Hospital Thursday afternoons and rest all day Friday.

“I’m not sure how the weeks are going to be,” Cameron said. “I’ve already talked to all the principals and a lot of the teachers. Since I’m only going Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I’ll basically be teaching myself half of what I’m learning. So, school’s going to be a little bit different.”

So will the afternoons and evenings this fall when he expected to be kicking footballs and soccer balls. Because soccer plays plenty of midweek games, Cameron will try to get to as many matches as he can. Getting to football on Friday nights will be a bit tougher.

“He won’t be on the field, but he’s still on the team,” said his father, Bob.

That’s what brought so many of his friends and teammates to the Blands’ driveway Sunday. Scores of boys, as well as uncles and family friends, shaved their heads along with Cameron.

The Blands were already planning a small gathering where family and friends could buzz their hair off in a gesture of solidarity. But as word quickly got out, teammates wanted to join.

“These boys came up with it on their own,” said his mother, Heather. “The kids have been amazing. You hear people criticize teenagers these days, but I’d say, ‘No. There are some awesome teenagers out there.’ Not everybody would just shave their head and walk around school.”

Cameron’s spirits have remained high since the initial diagnosis. He isn’t sulking or moping. He’s attacking the setback with the same even-keeled temperament that his friends have come to expect.

“We’ve talked about how he feels and how he’s doing,” said Cameron’s lifelong friend Rex Stillions. “He says he’s doing pretty good about it.”

“Everyone says I have a pretty chill personality,” Cameron said. “What went through my head was, ‘Well, I have it, so now I just have to deal with it, instead of getting sad or mad or whatever. I’ve just tried to act as normal as possible and do whatever I normally do to get my mind off it.”

Kids and adults came and went from the driveway for the better part of 90 minutes Sunday. After the final head was shaved, a group of 40 freshly-cut males posed in front of the Blands’ house for a final reminder of the day. Cameron stood in the middle, smiling and confident.

“Now it won’t be so lonely walking in the halls,” Heather said to no one in particular. “This was really sweet of you guys.”

And in the warmth of the final Sunday afternoon of summer vacation, Cameron Bland was given the sweet promise of companionship and a reminder of the ways friends and brothers share their love.