WHITE HALL, Ark. – A basketball coach in Jefferson County teaches his players all he knows about the game, but his players are also teaching him something as well.
Each day after school, Coach Marc Stringer is 100 percent committed to coaching champions.
Stringer first started coaching 13 years ago, his first job, in Hamburg.
Eight years ago, Coach Stringer was lucky to gain a home-court advantage, landing a coaching job at his alma mater, White Hall High School.
“I thought at the time being a younger guy coming in I thought I could better relate to the younger kids,” said Stringer.
Which is what he’s done, until the whistle blew, and life gave him a turnover.
“It was early July 2016, I had a scope scheduled, I was having trouble swallowing,” said Stringer.
Coach Stringer thought a simple procedure would lead him to a quick fix so he could get back on the court.
“I remember the doctor coming in and saying, we have a significant problem,” said Stringer. “It’s a kick in the gut, that’s what it is, it’s the last thing I was expecting, cancer at 33.”
Within the week, Coach Stringer and his wife began treatment for Esophageal Cancer.
That’s cancer in the esophagus, the tube that connects the throat to the stomach.
From July 2016 to summer 2017, Stringer battled and overcame surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and rarely missed a practice or game.
“Being out here is that escape to not think about it because there’s not a day that you don’t feel it, that you don’t think about it and this is a way to release that and get away from it for a little while,” said Stringer.
In September 2017, Coach Stringer was back to practice on the court, but after a scan, he didn’t get the slam-dunk news he was looking for. Coach Stringer had news the cancer was back.
He walked back to his office and locker room, and in the hall that connects the two, he found the walls decorated and dubbed the Stringer Strong wall. Stringer said it was a reminder, his team and school always have his back.
Some of the quotes on the wall are simple, others more meaningful, quoting bible verses.
It’s the motivational wall, Coach said makes all the difference some days, especially when chemo and treatment started back up.
“Lauren (Stringer’s Wife) took the initiative and went and go to MD Anderson and see what they want to do and experts want to do,” said Stringer.
In between stints being replaced and going back and forth to MD Anderson in Houston, Coach’s spirits have remained high.
“I feel good right now as well as I can there’s times, obviously I’m tired all the time and that comes with it, it’s learning how to conserve energy when I can and use it when I have to,” said Marc.
“Just keep pushing keep going forward, there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” said Lauren. She added, “This has been a testament to their strength on the court, and at home. Teammates no matter what. Going through this with him is me keeping promises to him that I made that I didn’t think I’d have to follow through with for years and years.”
Less than 24 hours after a typical Wednesday afternoon practice, Coach and Lauren headed back to Houston for tests.
But even so, Coach Stringer will find his way back to the court.
With his athletes, believing they’re the champs, when in reality, they think he is.
For more information on the Personal Pep Rally organization and how you can pass on some motivation to a family going through cancer, click here.