COLUMN: I’m not okay, but everything’s gonna be alright

Published 12:37 pm Monday, June 24, 2024

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On Thursday, I will have surgery to hopefully remove what is left of the cancer that I’ve been battling since last summer.

To say I’m scared would be a huge understatement. This entire experience has been a massive rollercoaster from a scary, heartbreaking beginning to hopefully a happy finish.

When the doctor first told me I had cancer there were 100s of things that went flying through my head but the emotion that was the most prominent was fear. I think “scary” is probably the best – and most honest – way I can describe cancer. The treatments are scary, the waiting is scary, all of the emotions are scary and the surgery is definitely a scary thought.

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I called it a rollercoaster, because I would be lying to say that there hasn’t been happiness and good that have come from it, too. The Troy University football program – and the Trojan Together Collective – raised money for my family for this battle. That was something no one owed me nor was anyone obligated to start it or contribute to it.

Through the entire thing, college and NFL coaches, NFL players, people I know and people I’ve never met donated money. That money was beyond helpful to us but the words of encouragement and the thoughts that came with it meant even more.

Various high school and college players and coaches throughout the area, and at Troy University, have checked up on me constantly. Even coaches that aren’t here anymore, like Jon Sumrall, have continued to check on me. Chanda Rigby had her entire team send me letters of encouragement. I was asked to throw out the opening pitch for a Troy baseball game. Troy’s new head football coach Gerad Parker barely even knows me but the first thing he does when he sees me is ask how I’m doing.

Chris Lewis is a 21-year-old football star who has been battling his own cancer. He was diagnosed back in December but it wasn’t revealed publicly until March. Do you know what Lewis was doing privately in January and February, while he was struggling with his own battle? He was encouraging me and trying to lift me up behind the scenes.

I’ve received phone calls, E-Mails, social media messages and even letters from people that I don’t know just wanting to wish me well. I don’t attend church but I know that I’m on the prayer list for at least half a dozen churches. Victoria Baptist Church – a church I’ve never stepped foot inside of –sent me letters of encouragement monthly since this all started.

I cannot describe how that makes you feel when you’re facing something this scary and I’ll also never be able to thank every single person enough.

My wife, Bethany, has been my absolute rock throughout this. No matter how badly I’ve wanted to break down and stop she’s been right there to give me encouragement when I need it and to kick me in the butt when I need it. When I was spending nights laying on the bathroom floor nauseous, she was there to bring a pillow and blanket so I wasn’t freezing on the cold floor. When I didn’t feel like eating anything, she was right there to make me eat something anyway. When I did feel like eating, she was on her way to get whatever I was craving. Every single chemo treatment, she was sitting right next to me. I honestly didn’t think I could love her more than I already did but somehow this scary, awful situation has brought us even closer together.

I’ve had plenty of family, friends and coworkers that have been right there with encouragement and help when it was needed, too. Family unsolicited gave us money to help with all of the crazy expenses. My dad – even with a ton of health problems of his own – was there to take me to doctor’s appointments when I couldn’t drive and Bethany wasn’t able to. Friends have been right there to tell me that it was when I would beat this thing, not if.

I’ve talked about death a lot over the last several months; some of it as jokes around friends – probably as way of coping with all of this – and some of it based off fear. My wife hates any talk like that but what she may not realize is that her responses any time I’ve talked about it has reassured me that I’m going to be up in that press box at Veterans Memorial Stadium once again come August doing what I love to do. I don’t question it at all anymore.

I don’t know what life will look like come Friday morning and thereafter. I am confident, though, I’ll be around to find out. As Jelly Roll says, “I’m not okay but everything’s gonna’ be alright.”