ToquiNotes: Justin Bishop Takes Own Advice, Leans on Community Support as Cancer Battle Continues

By Jeff Toquinto on December 02, 2017 from ToquiNotes via Connect-Bridgeport.com

When you’ve coached as many youngsters as Bridgeport’s Justin Bishop has, there are times you have to motivate them. There are times you have to tell them not give up and keep fighting.
 
Justin Bishop knows those words well from coaching baseball, football and basketball here in Bridgeport. He’s reminded himself he needs to follow through on the same advice he’s been giving out to the youth of our area for years.
 
Don’t stop.
 
Don’t quit.
 
Take the fight to your foe.
 
Justin Bishop is dealing with a foe right now. The foe, in this case, can’t be conquered with a touchdown. There is no 3-point shot that will vanquish it. And a grand slam with the game on the line just isn’t possible to declare victory against this for and in this showdown.
 
At this very moment, Justin Bishop is waging war on cancer. His cancer.
 
Bishop is currently at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown. He’s in a months-long process to beat back Ewing Sarcoma, which is a very rare type of cancerous tumor that grows in your bones or soft tissue around your bones. The good news is that the cure rate for this cancer is very good, but you have to go through tough treatments to beat it back.
 
Justin Bishop is doing that now. And he hears those words he’s told hundreds of his players echoing in his head as he goes through chemotherapy, blood work and rounds of rounds of appointments and meetings with doctors and nurses.
 
“I can’t tell those kids I’ve coached to fight and push through no matter what if I didn’t do it myself. I’d be a hypocrite,” said Bishop. “I’m already fighting this and will keep fighting it until the fight is over.”
 
The bulk of the fight is in Morgantown at Ruby. If he were a boxer, he’d be finishing up the second round of action. So far, the score card is in his favor.
 
“He’s already had one round of chemotherapy as an inpatient, and the second has started,” said his wife Rebecca on Tuesday who remains steadfast by her husband’s side. “We’re doing well and we have a great team of doctors and nurses here. We’re really blessed with the doctors.”
 
The inpatient treatments are needed due to the duration of the chemotherapy. The chemotherapy, which in layman’s terms is poison put in your body, is used to kill the cancer cells. Rebecca said each round lasts roughly four days with the treatment starting on Tuesday evenings and seeing a completion later in the day on Saturdays.
 
Each day of inpatient treatment brings multiple types of chemotherapy. He has one infusion for 22 minutes that happens just one time during each round, followed by two other treatments that last hours and hours each day.
 
“He’s pretty much hooked up the entire time,” said Rebecca.
 
When a round is over, the medical work isn’t. Chemotherapy is followed by the day-after Neulasta shot to help with white blood cells. There is weekly blood work. There are follow-up doctor visits and there is the general mental and physical fatigue involved with chemotherapy.
 
Justin Bishop is getting through it. And a big reason, he said, is thanks to those in the Bridgeport community and beyond that have kept him and his family in their prayers and have provided even more.
 
“The gift cards and support from people has just been amazing. I ate on gift cards after my diagnosis for weeks,” Justin said with a chuckle. “I appreciate everything that’s been done, whether it’s been a gift card for a meal, a phone call or a text.
 
“I just got a text (Tuesday) from one of my player’s parents that told me every night at dinner they pray that God will take away cancer from Coach Justin,” he continued. “That makes you feel as if you’ve made a difference. If anything can motivate you to fight, that’s it.”
 
Rebecca was thankful for the community help as well. She said it’s hard to fathom what everyone has done, and continues to do, for them.
 
“There are so many people praying for us, sending us messages either to us or through our parents to let us know they’re there for us and they care. It’s definitely something that has helped in ways people might not understand until you’re in this situation,” she said. “It’s overwhelming in a way, but it’s a good overwhelming. I guess when you look at it you realize Just has had an impact on a lot of young kids and those kids and their parents are giving back. It’s hard to say how valuable that is to us.”
 
Of value to Justin Bishop is time. At the present, he is already putting a time frame on his battle with cancer. Since he’s a realist and knows there can be setbacks along the way, he understands it could change. Still, he’s already got a window in mind for getting back to doing what he loves to do.
 
“I’m hoping that March, after surgery that will take place following chemo to remove the tumor, that it shows that the chemo killed the tumor and the margins are clear,” the 35-year-old said. “If they show no living cancer cells then I wouldn’t have to do radiation and just outpatient chemotherapy.”
 
Outpatient chemotherapy is still five days a week in Morgantown. However, it’s just a few hours a day and it would allow him to do what he’s planning and hoping to do.
 
“I would like to be able to help coach Little League in Bridgeport this (coming) year and be involved with a travel team. If that happens, then I’ll be back and ready to coach Pee Wee football,” said Bishop. “That’s what I envision, but we’ll have to see. I’m going to fight this so that I can do whatever is necessary to make it happen.”
 
While not officially coaching, Justin Bishop hasn’t given up teaching. When he’s back home after the chemotherapy rounds and medical visits wrap, he said he’s busy working with his son and some other youngsters – not as many as he would like – to work on their games.
 
“As soon as I get out the hospital, we’ll start my son’s offseason training while I’m in the recliner. I’ll have a few kids over to have a few to work with my son, but wish there could be more because that’s normal to me,” said Justin. “You’re looking for normalcy because none of this is normal.”
 
Perhaps the biggest struggle is laying there for the treatments. Bishop said he’s worked since he was 20 for CSX and is used to being up at 5 a.m. every day. When not working, he said he and Rebecca are out with their three children because they’re not fans of sitting around and watching television when there is opportunity outside.
 
“It’s weird as you go through this to not have anything to do. The treatments are really monotonous. TV is not my thing. I’m not a sitcom guy so I’ve just been watching a lot of sports,” said Justin. “That’s an added layer of toughness because you look outside and you know if you’re home and it’s not raining you put a jacket on and stay outside until it’s time for dinner. That’s changed, but I’m going to change it back soon.
 
“I want the normalcy back,” he continued. “That’s what everyone wants.”
 
It’s what a whole lot of youngsters in Bridgeport want too. Nothing is as normal as having Coach Justin with them. Those kids can relax. All they need to know is Coach Justin is doing everything he can to make sure that happens sooner rather than later.
 
Keep fighting Coach. The community whose back you’ve had for years, is going to stay with you to make sure you know they’ve got yours.


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