‘This could happen to anyone’: John Stark sophomore overcomes cancer diagnosis to help lead the Generals to a state championship

Lauryn Guevin celebrates after scoring one of her two goals during the Division II field hockey semifinals against Souhegan on Oct. 26, 2023.

Lauryn Guevin celebrates after scoring one of her two goals during the Division II field hockey semifinals against Souhegan on Oct. 26, 2023. Chip Griffin / Photos By Chip

Lauryn Guevin (left) controls the ball for the Generals in a matchup with Bow on Sept. 14, a couple weeks after she had surgery to remove a cancerous growth from under her ear lobe.

Lauryn Guevin (left) controls the ball for the Generals in a matchup with Bow on Sept. 14, a couple weeks after she had surgery to remove a cancerous growth from under her ear lobe. Chip Griffin / Photos By Chip

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 11-13-2023 4:54 PM

At age 15, Lauryn Guevin was just named Division II offensive player of the year for field hockey and helped lead John Stark Regional High School to their second straight state championship.

She’s also a cancer survivor.

It was late in the summer, just before field hockey season was about to begin when Guevin noticed a lump under her left ear lobe. She immediately had it checked by a doctor. The test results came back: It was cancer.

“Definitely is one of those deafening moments that kind of takes your breath away and puts a lot in perspective and what’s important,” said Gretchen Guevin, Lauryn’s mom and the assistant coach for John Stark field hockey.

She was diagnosed with acinic cell carcinoma, a rare, but treatable form. Discovering it early was key. She had surgery in early September to remove the lump. Within two weeks, she was back on the field, but the support she received from the John Stark field hockey program while she was gone, Lauryn said, was second to none.

“I told them all at once because they’re family to me, and they were all very supportive,” Lauryn said. “They were all there for me, and they all comforted me about it. It couldn’t have been better.”

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The team often came by her house to check on her after the practices she wasn’t able to attend.

“It really is a family atmosphere,” Gretchen added. “Just knowing that everyone is there supporting you and just watching them support her was amazing.”

‘You would’ve had no idea’

When Guevin returned to the field after missing the first few games of the season, she picked things up like nothing had ever happened. Playing midfield for the Generals as a sophomore, Guevin totaled 11 goals and eight assists and was named the Division II offensive player of the year after the season. She scored a goal in the quarterfinal of the playoffs against Portsmouth, two goals in the semifinal against Souhegan and the game-winning goal in the championship against Kennett.

“You would’ve had no idea that she had to deal with (cancer) this year by the way she was playing,” head coach Dennis Pelletier said. “She never used it as a crutch or an excuse or anything like that. It’s that competitive nature that she has.”

Lauryn shrugged off returning to play as feeling normal. Her mom offered more perspective.

“It’s courageous to have adversity thrown at you like that and power through it,” Gretchen Guevin said. “To watch her work hard through everything is pretty amazing, and it just has such a wow factor when I stop and think how hard she has worked through it all.”

But the biggest lesson through this all, everyone emphasized, was the need to pay attention to any health abnormalities, even things that seem super minor. Early diagnosis and treatment made Lauryn’s path to recovery pretty smooth, able to return in time to hoist a championship plaque with her teammates and some of her closest friends.

“I think that we come from that generation of ‘rubbing a little dirt on it’ and ‘they’ll be fine,’” Gretchen said. “But when Lauryn said that she felt a lump, my husband and I both were very alert to what she had told us, and we immediately made an appointment for her to get in, and I think if I could just have that message across the board to all parents to be very in tune with what your kids are saying and don’t brush that off. It’s amazing that we caught it.”

It’s a message that resonates with Pelletier, whose daughter Addy was also a sophomore on the team.

“This could happen to anyone,” he said. “The fact that they were observant and were proactive about having it checked out, we’re hoping other people can see this and learn from that as well and seeing that even if it is that worst-case scenario, it’s something you can definitely come back from.”