MANCHESTER, England _ It’s no piece of cake trying to play elite lacrosse while being treated for a serious illness but Chris Sanderson has stood up well.

     So well, in fact, that if Canada can knock off the United States and win another world field lacrosse championship on Saturday he has to be an MVP candidate. He was the difference in the first-round meeting when Canada won 10-9.

    Remember, it’s only been 18 months since he had a malignant brain tumor removed. Win or lose, after the team flies home Sunday, Chris will be resuming treatments immediately. He’ll be at a Philadelphia hospital on Tuesday and then goes to Duke University in North Carolina for a vaccine.

     “I’ll be getting right back into the routine,’’ he says.

     He’s happy with his play in this tournament.

     “I’m actually surprised,’’ he says. “I wasn’t sure how the body would react.

     “Mentally, I knew I was there but physically I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle it. The first couple of days were difficult but having some off days has really helped. I feel pretty good right now.’’

     He likes the way the players have come together as a team.

     “This is likely the best team I’ve played on in my four world tournaments,’’ he says. “Speed, size, ability _ obviously stick skills were never really in question _ are all there.

     “We’ve progressed maybe a bit slower than we’d thought we would. We were on a quick curve early in the tournament and then things sort of slowed down as we got into the middle but in the second half of our semifinal on Thursday we saw some signs of what assumed we’d be like entering the championship game. That’s a good thing for us.’’

    It’ll be emotional parting when the players split up.

    “I’d just say this tournament and this group of guys has allowed me to be honest about my situation,’’ he says of the sentiments he’ll be expressing. “They were interested and open about talking about my cancer, which has been unusual.

     “A lot of people avoid the conversation. These guys weren’t afraid to tackle it and wanted to hear about it. For me, that took a lot of pressure off me. It allowed me to focus on lacrosse.

     “By the time we leave Sunday I hope that I can say thanks to all of them because it’s been a really great experience.’’

     He’d set competing in 2010 as a motivational goal after being diagnosed and learning that few survive the illness he has. So, what’ll be his next goal?

     “I’ll have to process that when I get back,’’ he says. “Maybe it’ll be the 2014 world championship.

     “To be honest, I think my wife might kill me before the cancer if I told her that but, just being honest to myself, it’ll probably be something like the 2014 games.’’

     Geoff Snider hopes so. Snider was tournament MVP when Sanderson was named best goalie in Canada’s 2006 world triumph.

     “I love being around him,’’ says Snider. “On the field, he holds the players accountable. He’s a champion.’’

     Sanderson also had an impact on Snider when he was an assistant coach with the NLL’s Philadelphia Wings, Snider says.

     “He’s made me a better player and a better person,’’ he says. “It’s an honour to be out here sharing in his battle.

     “That’s the one thing that’s really unique about Chris _ he’s got 22 other guys putting on a jersey and beating cancer with him. We all bear that burden and we all understand the sacrifices he’s made with his family to be here to be competing for his country. When you talk about it you get a little bit upset and you think about it but what a brave and selfless human being.

     “It’s truly an honour to be able to come out here and spill your guts. It makes every ache and every pain and every little sore and every early morning become totally irrelevant. I’m just proud to be out here with him.’’

Neil Stevens

Team Canada media contact

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