In December, Darren Sanders heard words that nobody ever wants to hear from their doctor.
"You have a tumor on your brain," Sanders' doctor said.
The Ravens' Vice President of Security was stunned. But he quickly displayed his sense of humor, one that is well known within the organization.
"I have a brain tumor?" Sanders asked. "That's amazing. That means I have a brain. My wife has been questioning that for 30 years."
Sanders had brain surgery on Dec. 27, followed by six weeks of intense chemotherapy and radiation. But Sanders is a fighter. He has been down a similar road before, after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011. He beat that, and he plans to win again.
He surprised people by returning to work weeks ago, saying he felt no negative impact from chemotherapy sessions. His initial six-week round of chemotherapy and radiation ended Monday, and Sanders celebrated with family and friends that included Head Coach John Harbaugh.
The 53-year-old Sanders has remained upbeat largely due to his Christian faith that creates a positive outlook. His brain surgery occurred the Friday before the Ravens' regular-season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The day after surgery, Sanders said he was already sitting up eating in his hospital room, which surprised owner Steve Bisciotti when he visited.
"Steve said, 'What are doing sitting up, you just had brain surgery?'" Sanders said. "I said, 'Bro, I feel good. I'm ready to go home. I'm going to be home watching the game tomorrow."
Sanders got his wish and he was released in time to watch the Ravens defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17, two days after brain surgery. But Sanders still faces a battle. Glioblastoma is often an aggressive form of cancer. He is scheduled for more chemo sessions – five days a month over a six-month period later this year. But Sanders wants people to know his story, because he wants to inspire others who face challenges.
"For people to understand God's hand in this process, they have to know about it," Sanders said. "I've felt myself getting close to God. I'm wounded, but I'm still alive. Don't let this demoralize you. I wanted people to see me back at work. I've still got a job to do. I want people to know that when you get knocked down, you get back up. I wasn't going to be a dead man walking.
"My initial prognosis was two years (survival). I had my initial round of crying, thinking about my wife (Sharon) and daughter (Imani), not being around for them to protect them. But once I got through that initial shock, it was time to pray. Since I've been praying, I haven't had any fear since."
Sanders admitted that he was initially worried about having a permanent head scar following surgery.
"When I got home, I looked in the mirror and I looked like Frankenstein Jr.," Sanders said, laughing.
But as weeks went by, the scar became harder to detect. Now Sanders' head looks like it did prior to surgery.
"That scar was so vicious, and now it's gone," Sanders said. "That's God showing me his healing."
Sanders said he draws strength from his family and friends, and he is inspired by many people, including O.J. Brigance, Ravens Senior Advisor to Player Engagement. Brigance was diagnosed with ALS in 2007, yet he continues to work daily at the Ravens' headquarters. Sanders and Brigance have offices that are near each other at the team's headquarters.
"Tons of people are supporting me," Sanders said. "I honestly believe I'm going to have complete healing, not because I'm special or worthy, but I think God is going to use me. It's not going to be a cakewalk. But the bigger story is what God has done, is doing, and will do."