Cancer proves no obstacle for UMD offensive lineman Dan Bartels

Dan Bartels smiles with teammates Zach Oruruo and Dylan Gessell

Dan Bartels smiles with teammates Zach Oruruo and Dylan Gessell

On Friday, November 3, University of Minnesota Duluth student athlete Dan Bartels got the call that he is officially cancer-free. 

Bartels, a sophomore offensive lineman on the UMD football team, has been in an ongoing battle with testicular cancer after receiving the diagnosis in late May. 

“A lot of things went through my head right away,” Bartels said, “but the biggest thing I tried to do was try to look forward to the next step and keep going because obviously you’re not going to dwell on it at that point, you can’t look back. You just need to keep moving forward.”

His ability to keep a positive attitude through the cancer process is a quality that his teammates Nick Eliason and Taylor Streiff said they will always respect him for. 

“He was always positive about pretty much everything,” Streiff said. “Being around him, he always approached everything with a good attitude and was always just trying to bring everybody else’s spirit up, even though it should have been the other way around.”

“Strength is a word that comes to mind when I think of Dan,” Eliason said. “He’s never a guy that’s looking for sympathy, he’s not looking for your pity or anything, he’s just doing what he can to get better.”

Since receiving his diagnosis, Bartels first underwent surgery to remove the tumor, followed by three cycles of chemotherapy in mid June, with each cycle being three weeks long. After a total of 10 weeks, Bartels returned to Duluth at the end of August to get back to his regular routine of friends, school and football. 

After additional scans were done, it appeared the cancer had spread to his stomach. 

Bartels on a rainy gameday

Bartels on a rainy gameday

At the end of October, Bartels flew to Indiana for a second surgery, where they removed 20 lymph nodes from his stomach, three of which had been affected by the cancerous teratoma.  

When asked about the kind of support he received from his friends and family, Bartels was smiling from ear to ear. 

“These guys were incredible,” Bartels said. “When I was in the hospital they sent bags of candy, some clothes, and probably like 40 cards were sent my way. My friends back home even shaved their heads with me. It was overwhelming to say the least.

In addition to friends, family and teammates, Bartels’ offensive positional coach Peter Lue was another supporting figure who helped the Franklin, Wisconsin native through the recovery process. 

“As his coach my role was to be someone he could talk to, just someone to be there if he needed it. I also had to always remind him that his role is to get better,” Lue said. 

As Bartels is continuing his recovery process, he is also working on getting back to being a full-time student athlete at UMD. 

“Being back in Duluth, I was able to get my mind off things and go back to being a normal student and work towards being able to play football and lift,” Bartels said. “It’s just something to ease your mind. It’s stuff that I love doing so I might as well keep at it while this is going on and let the cancer sit in the background.” 

“I’m really proud of him,” Eliason said. “Everyone on the team has a lot of love and respect for him, so I think I can speak for everyone when I say we’re glad to have him back.”


Photos courtesy of DJ Anding