Football: Sailors support Werner in his battle against bone cancer

Max Werner says he doesn't keep track of time anymore.

He turned 15 on March 12. Three weeks later, doctors gave him a 50 percent chance to live.

Werner has a rare form of bone cancer in the pelvis. The disease is called Ewing's sarcoma and it has kept Werner away from what he enjoys most, playing football for Newport Harbor High.

He isn't completely out of the picture with the Sailors.

On Friday, Werner joined the Sailors for photo day. A healthy Werner planned to play for the junior varsity team this season. He started on the defensive line for the freshman team last year.

Newport Harbor moved Werner up to varsity on picture day. He sat in the front, while six rows of players, coaches, cheerleaders and a mascot mostly stood behind him.

The Sailors are backing Werner in his battle with cancer. For the photo, they held signs spelling out "Max is a Ewing's Warrior & a Sailor Champ!"

While Werner won't be able to play in a game this season, the sophomore's picture with the rest of the Sailors will be in the game day program. Coach Jeff Brinkley also told Werner that he would have a spot on the team when he returns.

"I don't have to try out," Werner said with a laugh, before adding that he will root for Newport Harbor all season, from home, the hospital, wherever he happens to be on Friday nights.

The Sailors look to beat their opponents, and Werner Ewing's sarcoma. They're playing for fun. Werner is fighting for his life.

The family needs help from the community. On the website, there's a fundraiser set up for Werner. Search "For Max, a Ewings Warrior" to donate.

At the start of the month, Janine Werner, a single mother, updated her son's condition on the site.

"Max just finished his [third] week of radiation, out of [six] weeks, and we got the okay on his labs from this morning to begin chemo cycle eight on Monday," Janine wrote. "It's a [five-day] admit into [Children's Hospital of Orange County] for this one because of the type of chemo and need for frequent vitals so he [is] released [five days later]. They will actually take him to St. Joseph [Hospital] across the street in an ambulance for 15 minutes of radiation. Weird, but he's admitted in CHOC, so he can't just walk across the street. Believe me, I asked!

"We are making progress, 16 more days of radiation, [three] weeks and a day, and [seven] more chemo cycles after this one, 14 weeks, if all stays well! Pushing through [one] day [and one] hour at a time."

Werner remains optimistic about his bout. He's learned about another football player who came down with Ewing's sarcoma five years ago. His name is Mark Herzlich, a former Boston College linebacker who lived to write about his battle and play football again, earning a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants in 2012.

A family member not only got Herzlich's recently published book titled "What it Takes: Fighting for My Life and My Love of the Game" for Werner, but Herzlich personally signed it for Werner. Herzlich also wrote a special message to Werner.

"I hear you are a fellow Ewings warrior!" Herzlich wrote. "I know that it is hard but remember that you have what it takes to get through this!"

Janine said her son isn't much of a reader, yet those words written in blue ink by Herzlich touched him. Herzlich was told he might never walk again, let alone play football again. He missed one season at Boston College, and returned to the field 10 months after he underwent surgery to remove a tumor in his left leg.

The tumor is in Werner's pelvis, and Janine said it has shrunk. Werner said he hopes to come back to school in November and begin working out with the Sailors in January.

Werner is now keeping track of time. He sees a bright future ahead.

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