When Jesse Lumsden finished his Olympic bobsled run, he faced an uncertain football future with questions about his surgically repaired shoulder.
At the time, the Calgary Stampeders running back wasn’t concerned about those issues.
He had a bigger problem.
With lesions in his throat next to his voice box, the 28-year-old feared the worst.
He was lucky.
They were benign, but the recovery has done a number on his voice. The cancer scare put things into perspective, and he took a release from the Edmonton Eskimos and nearly five months waiting for another shot in stride.
“The mental aspect was more nerve-racking than anything,” Lumsden said. “Going in, it wasn’t definite (that it was cancer) but it was better to be safe than sorry.
“Afterwards I couldn’t speak for seven days. That was challenging. I was carrying a white board around my neck.
“You learn a lot of things when you can’t speak. I learned some things quickly. A lot about other people.”
Lumsden has battled more than his share of injuries during his time in the CFL.
But no amount of shoulders in slings, knee braces or ankle boots prepares one to go without communicating using one’s voice.
He got a crash course in what living with a handicap felt like, and he certainly doesn’t take speech for granted now, no matter how raspy it has become.
“One thing I learned is people who talk the most say the least,” Lumsden said.
“People are very intolerant and judging towards someone without the ability to speak.
“I would order something and write it down and people would think I was deaf.
“It was interesting to see people’s perceptions.”
Lumsden was diagnosed long before making his trip to Vancouver for the Olympics.
He was getting raspy then, to the point where he was hard to understand.
“I had a voicemail greeting from way back, and some people would ask if that was me,” Lumsden said. “I would just say the number. Some of the bobsled teammates would ask if that was my normal voice.”
Lumsden has appointments booked with a speech therapist as he will have to learn how to control his diaphragm and eliminate the hoarse sound when he speaks.
It’s a small problem to have considering what could have been, and the fact he competed for his country knowing the situation is remarkable.
The Hamilton native has fit into the group well enough to give some healthy ribbing to his new teammates.
“(Receiver) Arjei Franklin was poking fun at me, asking when I was going to turn the Batman voice off,” Lumsden said. “I just said ‘That’s because I had surgery to remove some possibly cancerous lesions on my throat.’
“He yelled back, ‘C’mon, give me a break’ … I don’t take it too seriously.”