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'I approach it as the biggest game': Former Zag Jeremy Eaton in the fight of his life

Eaton was a member of the 1999 Gonzaga team that made the program's initial Elite Eight run in the NCAA Tournament.

NAMPA, Idaho — The Gonzaga men’s basketball team is in the midst of what could be a very special season. 

This year was set into action over 20 years ago when the 1999 Bulldogs made the NCAA Tournament for the first time. 

As the Bulldogs continue with what could be the biggest season of the program's history, a member of that 1999 squad now is now in the biggest season of his life as well.

"All my doctors are like, 'People your age don't get this. This is not even like one in a million billion. This is… you don't get this,'" said 44 year-old Jeremy Eaton of his cancer diagnosis.

"I could just see in her face it wasn't good," said Eaton of the first time his doctor told him his diagnosis. "She's like, 'You have stage four rectal cancer. It's traveled and metastasized to your kidneys, a little bit into your lungs, and into your liver.' I was like, 'You’re kidding me?'"

Eaton didn’t have a lot of time though to sit around in disbelief. 

His doctors told him that although his cancer is inoperable, if he didn’t do chemo he would only be alive for six more months. With chemo, they hoped to prolong his life for about five years.

"My doctors all laugh at me. They love my mentality towards it, so we’re going to give it hell. That’s all I can do. That’s all I know," said Eaton.

The other problem was this: As a small business owner, Jeremy does not have health insurance. That’s where his sister stepped in.

"Everybody knows I’m a stubborn ass, and I don’t ask for stuff," said Jeremy with a chuckle.

She created a GoFundMe for Jeremy that has been circulated now throughout the Gonzaga fan base and has thus far raised over $20,000 for Jeremy’s fight. 

His teammates from his historic squad have also been in constant contact.

"There's a lot of love. Yesterday, six, seven of my old teammates from my ‘99 team all reached out and asked how the first treatment went and if there's anything we can do. We're a very, very close team. Those guys are like brothers, and then some," said Eaton.

Twenty-two years after last suiting up for Gonzaga, Jeremy, his brothers, and his fans are ready for another battle. The arena may be different, but the mentality stays the same. 

Here is his message to those who have helped:

"The love is felt, and it's much appreciated. Just shows, I guess, how strong the Zag community really is. There’s people who I've never met that have helped us. Everything is… it's noticed," said Jeremy as he got emotional.

And here his message to the cancer in his body:

"I approach it as the biggest game. I'm a competitor, and I'm gonna fight it. I’ve won more than I’ve lost, so we're going to do it again," said Jeremy while holding back tears.

Here's hoping both the Zags and Jeremy go undefeated in 2021.