Jovan Dewitt first noticed the lump when he came back from a recruiting trip in Florida over Christmas break. Doctors figured it was an infected salivary gland, and put him on a steady diet of antibiotics. Dewitt went back out on the trail, figuring the problem had been solved. It hadn’t.
“As I came back, the lump hadn’t changed. It had actually gotten bigger,” Dewitt told reporters on Wednesday. In late January, he received a CAT scan which confirmed that he had cancer.
Since then, there have been some good weeks and some bad weeks for Dewitt. But facing down your own mortality? That’s new for him. “It’s really a surreal process to realize that you’re facing a process that can kill you,” he said.
The outside linebackers coach has lost 45 pounds since January, a side effect from the radiation and chemotherapy he’s undergone. “I’m a little bit lighter… it’s a bad diet plan, I don’t suggest it,” Dewitt joked.
The side effects have prevented Dewitt from regularly attending team functions. His wife even took his car keys from him; otherwise Dewitt would ignore his doctor’s orders to get plenty of R&R. “It’s been hard not being there for every meeting and every position drill that we’re able to do,” Dewitt said. “There are sometimes during practice that I just need to take a knee, just to get some hydration through my body.”
When he’s able to be around, things are mostly good for Dewitt. It’s a chance to see his players and coaches that he’s built such close relationships with. Outside linebacker JoJo Domann beamed when reporters asked about Dewitt’s presence at practice on Wednesday.
“It’s awesome,” Domann said with a smile. “I guess you could say it does give us that extra energy to go even harder, knowing that our coach is battling the bigger battle.”
“Anytime he gets to be back out there with us, it brings a smile to my face,” defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said. “We love it when he comes out here. I’m glad his wife lets him come for a few hours.”
Since Dewitt got his feeding tube installed, he said his body has been responding well to treatment. If everything goes to plan, he’ll be done with the radiation and chemotherapy by the first week of April.
Dewitt said the outlook for his health is positive, as his type of cancer is in the “mid-90 percentile range” of a cure rate. Additionally, Dewitt told reporters that he’s halfway done with radiation treatment. Although not part of the treatment plan, the support he’s received from coaches and players both past and present has proven to be immeasurably helpful, too.
“My guys call me pretty much every day to check on me,” Dewitt said. His voice began to crack and tears welled in his eyes. “When your former players call you? You know you’ve done some good things because those kids call me every single day to make sure I’m doing all right and hanging out okay. It’s been really good… my guys help me out a lot, more than they know.”
(Photo – Courtesy of Huskers.com)