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On the road to recovery

10/15/2015, 2:30pm PDT
By Kevin J. Farmer

Eastlake football player battles back from cancer

Senior Dean Klaser wears his No. 33 jersey while sprinting out with his runs out with his team against La Serna on Aug. 28 at Eastlake High School.

— It looked like a potentially dangerous situation.

Locked in an intense matchup with visiting Madison, Eastlake running back Traylon Reed broke free and raced down the home sideline. He was knocked out of bounds by a Madison defender on a touchdown-saving play inside the 30.

A player wearing a No. 33 Eastlake jersey sprinted down toward the players as they left the field.

Words were exchanged and a couple of firm pats on the back were exchanged.

What went down there?

“He asked me how I was feeling,” said No. 33, senior running back/linebacker Dean Klaser. “I told him I was doing great!”

The Madison player’s concern was genuine — everyone wants to know how Dean is doing.

He is doing great, but that wasn’t always so.

Before his junior year Klaser felt a suspicious lump. It wasn’t affecting his play and he didn’t want anything to get in the way of football so he didn’t say anything.

“I knew it probably wasn’t a good thing, but I didn’t want anything to stop me,” admitted Klaser.

He went on to carry 75 times for 473 yards and 10 TDs, adding another 169 yards on seven receptions. Defensively the first-team all-league selection averaged 3.4 tackles a game.

Moving to winter baseball he became more uncomfortable and more scared, Dean told his parents.

His family doctor immediately sent him to the emergency room for further tests and get it removed. The follow-up test revealed Dean had a rare muscular cancer – Rhabdomyosarcoma.

With coaches, friends, parents and teammates, from even the Parkview Little League he played in, all rallying around him he headed to Children’s Hospital.

They saw more signs of the disease in lymph nodes in his abdomen causing another operation. This time it was more painful.

“My treatment was originally for five months but after the second surgery they said they had to double it,” said Dean. “At first I was going to be missing maybe four to five games, now the whole season and half the school year.”

But getting healthy was the main priority. He attacked his treatment head on.

“I pretty much go to chemo every Monday,” he said. “The first Monday it’s a normal dose, the second Monday it just a little dose, but the third one I have to be admitted overnight; that’s a big dose. That week knocks me down pretty good for about a week.”

While that was the lowlight, there is now a highlight.

“I’ve been in remission about 10 to 12 weeks,” he said. ”My week 15 scans showed there was no sign of cancer anymore!”

That leads him to the big goal that lies ahead on Dec. 21 – his last chemo treatment.

In the meantime Dean was awarded another year of eligibility by the CIF.

If you look at Dean in that No. 33 jersey, he still fills it up quite well. If it wasn’t for his lack of hair, you would think he could play today. He works out at a gym two to three times a week doing “typical high school football training.” His arms are still cut; he weighs barely 20 pounds off his playing weight.

“He looks like he could play right now,” said Eastlake Head Coach Lee Price. “We love having him be part of the whole thing – at practices and games. It looks like he’s a coach half the time.”

“I love to play and can’t wait to put those pads on again next year; I’m so grateful,” concluded Dean. “And I’m going to try to play on the next level after that.”

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