Former Blossom rejoins Winona State team after cancer diagnosis

Published 9:02 pm Monday, August 20, 2018

WINONA, Minn. — John Rumpza and the doctors thought it was nothing.

The Winona State University football player was in peak physical condition and had “no physical symptoms” that would lead to believe the lump they found was anything more than a benign tumor.

Even though the initial appointment last October went well, Rumpza endured further tests, showed up for his required follow-ups and remained at-ease throughout the entire process.

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And then, a bombshell.

“Testicular cancer,” Rumpza said. “Honestly, it was God-send that I saw the doctor in the first place because I had no reason to believe anything was wrong and no physical symptoms.”

After his initial appointment in Winona last October, Rumpza was referred to a urologist and an oncologist at Gundersen Lutheran Medical center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. It was there that surgery was scheduled and the cancerous tissue was removed in January.

“They caught it early enough, but it was still a little scary,” the 2015 Blooming Prairie High School graduate said.

With the successful operation behind him, Rumpza was given roughly a month to prepare his body for the most grueling part of the entire process: Chemotherapy. Making the 30-minute drive to La Crosse for six days of four-hour treatments during spring break, Rumpza lost his hair, became physically exhausted and was in a constant battle with overwhelming nausea.

Through it all, he remained unbelievably positive and displayed unique perspective and awareness for a young man barely in his 20s.

“It was taxing when it was going on and I lost my hair so I went to the shaved head look for a while,” Rumpza said with a chuckle. “That was rough, but it wasn’t long and strenuous as it could have been, so I was fortunate in that regard.”

When all was said and done, Rumpza lost about five pounds of muscle, missed a week of class and spent the first several days of the Warriors’ annual spring practices pacing the sidelines with his coaches as his teammates banged bodies in front of him.

Remarkably, Rumpza felt well enough by the fifth day to strap on his pads and join his teammates on the field, the Owatonna People’s Press reported. Picking up the pace right away and taking the already intense practice sessions in-stride, Rumpza said it took some time to readjust his body, but once he got going, it felt like nothing had ever happened.

It felt like he didn’t have a cancerous lump removed from his body just six months prior, never endured unrelenting chemotherapy, never lost his hair and never spent sleepless nights battling the inevitable sickness that came with his treatment.

“It felt pretty awesome to get back on the field and have a team that’s so supportive,” Rumpza said. “I wasn’t as open about it right away but they eventually found out and to see the support from your brothers; that was great.”

Even before his unexpected and powerful diagnosis, Rumpza knew this past offseason was going to be critical as he was on the shortlist of players to take over as the team’s starting quarterback after the graduation of Darren Beenken.