A head coach touches many folks simply by the great number of young men who come out for the sport of football. And in the last few weeks, football coach Randy Kuceyeski has heard from many of those former players.
This season is going to be the veteran coach's last one. He can look back on a career that included a state title in 2004 and a second-place finish in the 2003 season. In 2009, he received the first annual Randy Walker Award for a coach who touches a community.
His life seemingly was in order, and then he received some very tough news in May.
"I was working out and noticed a lump on my neck,'' Kuceyeski said.
Kuceyeski didn't fool around and headed to see a doctor. In a matter of days, he was having scans and biopsies.
"They found a mass tumor on the back of my tongue,'' he said. “That can happen to smokers or chewers but I was never a smoker or chewer."
Naturally, the dreaded news that he had squamous-cell carcinoma, an oral cancer, hit hard at the coach's house.
"In two weeks, my world was turned inside and outside,'' he said.
The good news is that the oral cancer has an 80 percent cure rate. In addition, the 17-year veteran coach also has a very large support group.
"I have the support of an unbelievable wife,'' he said. “My players have been tremendous. But this will definitely will affect me coaching in the fall. It was going to be last year. So this will be a hell of way to end it."
Kuceyeski, and his wife, Martha, have settled in at University of Chicago's medical center to battle the cancer. That's where his summer fight will begin before he takes the field again in September.
"I'll have six weeks of chemotherapy,'' Kuceyeski said. “And I'll be going in for radiation. It will be hospital for five days and then home for nine days. And again, in the hospital for five days and home for nine days. I'll have 16 weeks of treatment."
There is a CaringBridge website set up with alerts on Kuceyeski's case.
"There is a student Facebook page with over 1,000 hits,'' he said. “I will do what I can. It's been different for me. I've never had something like this before. I'm just glad I found it when I did."
Kuceyeski is well aware many people are rooting for him.
"The support of the players has been uplifting,'' he said. “I've heard from several people from the '70s and '80s. That's been a blessing. I hope to think I can be tough through this. I'm not the first person who has been through it."
For updates on Kuceyeski's case, visit: www.caringbridge.org/visit/randykuceyeski/journal.