Sidelined, but not backing down

Published 4:15 pm Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Being told you have to forfeit your spot in the starting rotation is never easy. And being told that days after a win just doesn’t make sense.

Mark Newton, a sophomore tennis player for the Oak Mountain Eagles, went to the doctor in early March with complaints of a sore shoulder and questionable bumps. A biopsy revealed Hodgkins’ Lymphoma.

Mark’s first questions were “What about tennis?” and “What about Jamaica?”

Mark missed his much anticipated spring break mission trip to Jamaica and had to watch from the team’s tent during the Shelby County tennis tournament last week.

Eagerly awaiting his return to tennis, Mark made a vow online Saturday.

“I kind of want to make a Tim Tebow speech like he did after Florida lost their first game this past year where he said, ‘You will not see any player work harder than I will over the next couple of months.’ When the doc gives the go ahead, I am hitting the courts first thing.”

Tennis players of the Class of 2011 beware.

Mark is the No. 6 singles player and played at No. 3 doubles. But no matter where his position on the team, he’s ready to pour himself into the team 100 percent. That’s why everyone at Mark’s prayer service Sunday at Meadowbrook Baptist knew this moment of cancer in his life will pass.

As sportscaster Jim Dunaway, one of the speakers for the service, said, “I sense a championship run, and can’t wait for the celebration.”

Mark’s already celebrating, trusting that as he enters chemo treatments again this week, the cancer is being zapped away. After all, the shoulder feels better.

Thousands across North Shelby County are joining with Mark by wearing a yellow braclet that reads “Mighty Warrior of Prayer.” That’s what this 14-year-old is, and that’s what he’s making others who get to know him and his story.

Mark’s request is “Join me.”

To read Mark’s journal, visit