JF

From Kare 11 (video here)

It’s game night at New Prague High School. The Trojans are looking for their 16th win of the season, and head coach Jeff Gravon has his team playing well.

But as you watch Jeff on the sideline, you notice the wrap on his right hand which actually extends all the way up his arm. It doesn’t look serious, but looks are deceiving.

“I’ll be lucky to save my arm, that’s my best case scenario probably” said Jeff.

His physical problems began 18-years ago with Hodgkins disease. But, for the last 10 years he’s been battling lymphedema in his right arm. Lymphedema is a non-curable lymphatic condition which is progressive and dehabilitating. To make matters worse, Jeff was recently diagnosed with a rare type of cancer in his arm.

“This is a rare kind of things, like 0.001 percent of all cancers,” said Jeff.

He recently took a Pet/CT scan at the University of Minnesota Medical Center/Fairview which will help determine whether the cancer has spread, which as you might imagine, is one of his biggest fears.

Jeff is an intensely private person, and a relative newcomer to New Prague, so his first reactoin to all of this was…

“I tried to not let it effect me, I tried to not tell my players, I tried to not tell my assistant coaches. I didn’t want to distract the kids, I didn’t want to distract people in their lives.”

But when you live in a small town, eventually word gets around.

The secret is out now, and New Prague is rallying around their basketball coach.

“It’s just the way it is around here, I guess. Someone needs help, you help them,” said Adam Michael, a senior basketball player at New Prague.

“The doctor told him he should be taking it easy, but he said he’d be here everyday he can. If he’s in a wheelchair, he’ll be here. He’ll be here every day for us. We need him, and he needs us.”

On the basketball floor, everything temporarily goes away.

“You know for an hour, two hours, you’re out there, it’s all gone.”

Jeff is a basketball lifer. He’s been coaching since age 16 and knows nothing else. He loves his team, he loves his school, he loves his kids who come to cheer him on. This part of life right now is better than scripted which makes dealing with a rare and aggressive cancer all that more difficult.

“You eat, go to sleep, you pray, you play with your kids. It’s kind of a routine. These are what we do besides going to doctor appointments to keep yourself going.”

For more information on the benefit itself:

If you enjoyed Coach Gravon’s story, here’s how you can get involved.

On Saturday, February 23, the New Prague High School family is holding a fund raiser at Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Tubby Smith will be the featured speaker at the Jeff Gravon Benefit.

Its $35 to participate. Call New Prague High School at 952-758-1200 or Lorie Geiger at 952-649-7107 for more information.

Even if you can’t make it down to New Prague to hear Coach Smith, I’m sure they would still accept a donation, no matter how small.