“It was a shock,” Connor said. “I thought I just had an ear infection that the doctors could not clear up.”
After a CT Scan, doctors found the Cholesteatoma located inside Connor’s left “middle” ear. By the time doctors found it, it had destroyed two out of his three hearing bones. They quickly scheduled him for surgery after diagnosis. The operation was grueling, lasting over two hours. It was very invasive because, unfortunately, there is no arthroscopic option for this procedure, so the incision to his ear was major.
In the beginning, doctors feared the Cholesteatoma had reached Connor’s balance canal, which would have destroyed any possibility of a future in tennis for him. However, Connor never lost hope through the whole ordeal. Although the Cholesteatoma knocked out some of his crucial hearing bones, it luckily did not damage his balance.
“I’d have to say that I am more thankful for what I have than what I lost,” he said. “Due to the Cholesteatoma, I have lost just about all of my hearing in my left ear, but thankfully I’m still able to play.”
And that is what’s important to him. Connor does still have another surgery to go through on the same ear, called a Second Look Surgery, where the surgeon has to make sure the Cholesteatoma is completely gone. Unfortunately these tumors can come back, but if this Second Look goes well, doctors will work to rebuild his hearing using artificial bones.
When we asked Connor whether he experiences pain regularly when he plays he said, “I am not in any pain right now, but in general, I try to avoid getting hit on that side of my head.”
During his recovery from the operation, Connor could not play tennis or exercise in any way.
“I have gradually come back to full-time tennis, which for me is 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. and 3 – 6 p.m. training daily,” he said. “I train at Delray Competitive Tennis with my Coach Robert Wojcik.”
“I was sidelined this summer from playing the big tournaments in 16s,” he said. “That hurt a lot because I had gotten into the tournament and then the emergency surgery forced me to sit them out.”
Connor told us that it was his drive to become a professional tennis player that kept him working hard and moving forward. Letting this set-back defeat him (no matter how severe) was not an option that he would let cripple his dreams.
“Honestly, I probably came back way too soon and was just not ready in the beginning; this has not been an easy recovery for me,” Connor said. “The last two tournaments that I played showed me that I am getting back into better condition, more like my old self.”
Connor urged all athletes facing a struggle to just keep fighting, and never give up on their dreams.
“Something big will happen for me,” he said. “This surgery has made the mental side of my tennis game so much stronger.”
UPDATE ON CONNOR’S HEALTH: Connor is heading back to the Mayo Clinic after another small growth randomly appeared on the same ear. The location of the growth this time – on the outer rim of his ear – is even rarer than the one found originally. He is continuing to undergo testing, and his family is hopeful that his fighting spirit will pull him through this unfortunate situation.