Golf Ball to the Head Leads to Life-Saving Cancer Diagnosis

For Chris Logan, a golf ball to the head led to a life-saving diagnosis.

July 4, 2011— -- Chris Logan never saw it coming -- that is, the golf ball that nearly knocked him unconscious or the cancer diagnosis that followed.

The 25-year-old from West Chester, Pa., was at the final round of the AT&T National when his favorite golfer, Sean O'Hair, drove a shot into the crowd and right into Logan's temple. When doctors examined Logan for a concussion, they found a lump in his neck that turned out to be thyroid cancer.

"I guess it was fate," said Logan, who quickly underwent two operations to remove the tumor and a bout of radioactive iodine treatment to kill any leftover cancer cells. "I was lucky to be there."

Logan almost wasn't there. Had his friend not dragged him out against his will in 95-degree heat last July 4, someone else might have taken the wayward ball to the head. Now one year later, a cancer-free Logan finally met and shook hands with the man who gave him a life-saving headache at Waynesborough Country Club in Paoli, Pa.

"It was funny," Logan said of meeting O'Hair, who also lives in West Chester. "Right as he apologized for hitting me in the head, I thanked him for starting this whole process off."

O'Hair called the fluke a "cool experience."

"You feel bad about hitting him, but yet you feel good that he found out about the cancer, found it early, and got it worked on," the 28-year-old told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

When it's detected, thyroid cancer is one of the most treatable cancers. Logan's first operation was to remove the tumor alone with hopes of sparing his thyroid -- the butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that produces hormones that regulate metabolism.

But the tumor proved to be malignant and capable of invading nearby tissues, so doctors decided to remove Logan's thyroid, too. Then they used radioactive iodine, which is absorbed by the thyroid, to wipe out any tumor cells left behind.

"I was so radioactive that I had to be in isolation," said Logan, who stayed in his old bedroom at his parents' house during the four-day treatment. "It was pretty awful. It felt like a hangover, a radioactive hangover, each morning for about two hours."

And to ensure the cancer cells would suck up the radioactive iodine, Logan couldn't eat any iodized salt.

"The food tasted pretty bad those four days," Logan said.

Without a thyroid gland, Logan has to take synthetic thyroid hormones every day -- a routine he happily accepts.

"If being a cancer survivor means taking two pills each morning, I really can't complain," he said.

In what little spare time Logan has between full-time grad school and part-time work, he loves to play and watch golf. This year he volunteered at the AT&T National, which had him back on the same fairway where his life-saving wake-up call fell from the sky.

"I remember all the details like it happened yesterday," Logan said. "But everyone's like, 'Jeez, has it only been one year?' It feels like it's been a lot longer."