Napoleonville tennis coach refuses to let cancer win
NAPOLEONVILLE, La. (AP) — Assumption High School athletic director and tennis coach Sydney Acosta has all of the reasons in the world to stay at home and not show up for work every day.
Acosta, a Napoleonville native, has battled three different types of cancer throughout his life, but he refuses to let the disease get the most of him.
Despite chemotherapy treatments that come with painful side effects, the 54-year-old Acosta has continued to perform his duties at Assumption, a place where he has worked for 30 years.
“I felt the only way I could beat this thing is to keep working and keep doing my normal activities,” Acosta said. “I wanted to stay active. I didn’t want to sit at home and feel sorry for myself. I felt like if I was to just stay at home, the walls would’ve closed in on me. I didn’t want that to happen. Even though it was hard, I still managed to do it.”
His third and most recent cancer bout started late last year when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which caused small tumors on his spine and two large tumors in both hips.
Acosta, who has won more than 1,000 career matches as Assumption’s tennis coach, said he found out about the cancer last year due to an unfortunate fall that ended up being a blessing in disguise.
He slipped on concrete and hurt his back while running to his mother’s home on a rainy day. After not being able to move for a few days, Acosta went to the hospital for a MRI exam, which later showed not only a bulging disk in his back but also the tumors on his spine and hips.
If he hadn’t slipped outside his mother’s home, Acosta said he wouldn’t have known about the cancer.
In 1982, he had cancer in his soft palate, which required a reconstruction of his entire mouth.
In 2010, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer and had a portion of his kidney removed to fight it.
Acosta recovered from cancer the first two times. The third bout, which he said didn’t pass on from the first two battles with cancer, was the most intense despite being treatable.
He has been through several recent setbacks. In November, he had a kidney stone that required surgery to remove it. A month later, he battled flu-like symptoms for a week. He was also hospitalized for pneumonia for a week.
The chemo treatments had tough side effects such as tiredness and difficulty walking.
“It took its toll on me,” Acosta said. “I cried out of fear of not knowing what was going to happen. There were days when I could barely walk, get up or come to school, but I managed to do so with the help of co-workers and friends.”
It has been a tough year for Acosta and his family, but he is happy that it is in remission.
“I feel great,” Acosta said. “This is the best I’ve felt in a long time.”
Assumption Principal Niles Riche said Acosta’s fight with cancer has inspired all of his students, athletes, co-workers and coaching peers.
“It was tough for us to see some of the things that he has gone through, but he wanted to keep going,” Riche said. “He won’t let anything get him down. He has the best attitude of anybody I know. The kids really love him. Everybody loves Syd Acosta. He is just an outstanding guy who works hard and loves life. He loves this school and he loves this parish. He’s just a great guy.”
The school honored the coach during a girls’ high school basketball game in February, when many of his former and current students showed up to support him.
“It was a great experience,” Acosta said. “There were some of them that I haven’t seen in years. I appreciated it. It was something that really touched my heart and made me feel really good where I am right now.”
Assumption tennis athlete Camille Landry, who ended her senior year with a Division II girls’ singles state runner-up finish, said Acosta has always inspired his athletes. Since 2011, Assumption’s tennis teams have raised more than $40,000 for kidney cancer research in support of Acosta.
“In my four years of tennis, I couldn’t have gotten through it without him,” Landry said. “He has always motivated me and encouraged me. It was very hard to see him sick. Whenever I’m on the court, I wanted to win for him.”
Acosta said he knows having cancer will be an ongoing battle, but he feels staying active is the best way to fight it.
“I just want to keep going and keep pushing as much as I can,” Acosta said. “I’ve stayed positive throughout the whole thing and continue to go to work. I felt like it helped me stay a step ahead of it.”
Information from: The Courier, http://www.houmatoday.com