A Collegian’s Big Victory

Timmy Berg was in eighth grade when he was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancerous tumor growing behind his eye
Among the tennis all-American Timmy Berg’s victories is one over cancer. Bella Lewis

Timmy Berg, a native of Bradenton, Fla., herded a group of young campers to their lunch break at Hampton Racquet in East Hampton, where he is a camp counselor this summer. This past spring, in Berg’s senior year on the Bates College tennis team, he won all-American honors after competing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association doubles finals, earned first team all-New England Small College Athletic Conference honors in both singles and doubles, won that conference’s Clar­ence Chaffee Sportsmanship Award, and compiled an 11-11 mark in singles as the team’s number-one.

Among other victories, he also beat cancer 10 years ago.

He was in eighth grade when he was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancerous tumor growing behind his eye. “I was playing a lot of tennis at the time and just noticed some weird stuff with my vision,” he said. One trip to the eye doctor and within a week Berg underwent major surgery to remove the tumor, which a biopsy confirmed to be cancerous.

Berg went through six months of chemotherapy, followed by two months in Boston for radiation treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital, where “there was this new technology called the proton beam — now it’s much more commonplace in a lot of other facilities, but at the time there were only three, and Mass. General was the closest.”

“I did play at times,” Berg said of how the treatment affected his tennis game. “My balance was all thrown off” by one of the drugs.

He chuckled as he struggled to remember the details of his experiences in eighth grade. “It’s not something I bring up. Most of my friends from college didn’t know until I played this tournament last year that was for cancer research and they did a story, which somehow our athletic department posted.”

John Graham, the director of Hampton Racquet, who raises money for cancer research there, said that it was only last week that he found out Berg had beaten cancer and had also done some fund-raising for the V Foundation for Cancer Research in eighth grade. “I did not know about that. I did not know about it at all, so I just thought the world came together when I knew the story. I thought, ‘Oh my God.’ ”

Hampton Racquet had its second annual Hamptons Poker Championship on Aug. 2 to benefit the Center for Wellness and Education. On Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., the Hamptons Cup at Hampton Racquet, which is at 172 Buckskill Road, will have boys and girls ages 5 to 10 competing against one another for a fee of $40. All proceeds will go to Fighting Chance, which will hold an informational day of cancer awareness and prevention at Hampton Racquet, said Graham.

Berg pointed out how helpful organizations like Hampton Racquet had been in providing contacts for him when he had cancer. “Organizations like this do a lot of good things,” he said, referring to the charities that Hampton Racquet supports.

After completing all the pre-med requirements in college, Berg ultimately chose philosophy as his major. “I thought medicine wasn’t for me, but I’ve always loved animals, so I interned last year at a guide dog organization in their veterinary department. That was just a blast.”

He is interested in the veterinary field for small animals like dogs and cats, but said that “exotics would be cool too — primates, I don’t know. We’ll see.”