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Ohio State Fan’s Kind Gesture Inspires Penn State Cancer Survivor

These days, blocked field goals, close wins and losses, and equally intense fan bases set Penn Staters and their Ohio State counterparts apart. But one Buckeye’s act of kindness this weekend made a profound impact on a Nittany Lion who needed it most.

Lifelong Penn Stater Doug Sharapan received the surprise of a lifetime at the end of a follow-up doctor’s appointment after beating cancer one year ago. Instead of a poor prognosis, though, this was a blessing. His oncologist, a diehard Buckeyes fan, gave him his two tickets to this season’s Penn State-Ohio State clash at the Horseshoe.

“I was kind of speechless for a good five or 10 seconds. I was really touched,” Sharapan said.

Sharapan, a Pittsburgh native who’s lived in Columbus for decades now, knew throughout his treatments that his regular nurses and oncologists were huge Ohio State fans and alumni. To honor their hard work in a “very depressing environment,” Sharapan vowed to suit up in Ohio State gear throughout his chemotherapy treatments.

“Wearing that Ohio State jersey and seeing nurses smile because of it gave me that little extra push I needed to get through those three-hour treatments,” Sharapan recalled. “I have nothing but such great things to say about the medical staff there.”

After learning he’d received those tickets from his oncologist, though, Sharapan vowed to suit up in scarlet jersey (balanced with a Penn State hat) as he watched the game unfold at Ohio Stadium alongside his 11-year-old son. He’d certainly come a long way in that regard, once noting there was “no shot in hell” he’d ever willingly dress in Buckeyes apparel.

“My doctor’s reaction was priceless,” Sharapan said. “He said, ‘Now, we both know you’d be miserable [wearing Ohio State gear], so why don’t you just wear an OSU jersey under your Penn State jersey instead?’ I told him I would, but I already knew I’d just wear that Ohio State jersey on its own.”

Sharapan’s flashy sign and story certainly warranted some televised attention, but it doesn’t look like he ever quite made it onto the broadcast. Either way, he’s been surprised by how folks have gravitated toward his journey and his goal of spreading that positivity back.

“I’ve gotten a lot of people saying they’re seeing my story all over Facebook and social media,” Sharapan said. “I had people coming up to me at the game, seeing the sign and taking a picture. I didn’t know who these people were, but they were friends of mine.”

Since moving to Columbus in 1998, Sharapan’s been to his fair share of Penn State-Ohio State games at the Shoe, but this was his first time in scarlet and gray. Sharapan recalled some previous trips to games involving fights, cursing, and even a few falling-outs among friends, and going a decade without a win in Buckeye territory certainly hasn’t made those visits any easier.

He grew up in Pittsburgh, but Sharapan first got a taste of Happy Valley once his older brothers chose to study at Penn State. He even turned down a notable scholarship from Pitt just to call Happy Valley home instead. While studying at Penn State, Sharapan earned a degree in finance and played hockey for the Nittany Lions long before they became a Division I powerhouse.

He’s certainly not shy about his distaste for Ohio State — infamously known as his “most hated team in all of sports” — but Sharapan’s perspective on the rivalry has changed thanks to his doctor’s act of kindness.

“When all this happened, I said, ‘You know what? I’ve got to put all this behind me. These people [his oncology team] all went to Ohio State, and going is the least I could do,'” Sharapan recalled.

Sharapan said Buckeye Nation treated him and his son well last weekend. Now a year and change cancer-free, he got to live life to the fullest and spend time doing what he loves most: being a dad and rooting for his Nittany Lions.

“You know, I might never go back. That might be my last game at the Horseshoe because I might want to go out on top and cherish this experience,” Sharapan joked. “That’s really how great it was.”

At the end of the day, it’s the little things that can make a difference. Sharapan knows that first-hand from his oncology team, and he hopes more fans across the country will soon view life the same way.

“The smallest little gesture can really make somebody get through a day, you know?”

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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