Central High Football Coach with cancer searches for bone marrow donor

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The Valley football community is rallying around a popular coach, currently battling a deadly disease. (KFSN)

The Valley football community is rallying around a popular coach, currently battling a deadly disease. It's his third time coping with cancer and they're hoping to find him a match for a transplant.

From four-star recruits like Michiah Quick to nationally ranked players like Tashon Smallwood, 38-year-old Central High School football coach Justin Garza has helped countless kids earn athletic scholarships to play football in college. Now, he needs their help in tackling one of the biggest battles of his life off of the field: Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

"After my first season coaching at Central High School I found out I had a relapse. I was having symptoms I had prior to 2010/2011 and I knew what was going on," said Garza.

Knew what was going on because he had survived two bouts with the cancer before, but this time must undergo a bone marrow transplant in order to live. The only problem is none of his friends or family members are a match.

"For someone in my situation you run out of solutions," said Garza.

So he's teamed up with be-the-match-dot-org and the Central Valley Blood Center to increase his chances of finding a donor.

"There are about 6,000 people each and every day looking for a match and it's a life-saving match. That's their best hope for getting through this disease," said Central Valley Blood Center CEO Dean Eller.

But only one in every 500 of those registered will ever be called to help. For Garza the pool of potential candidates is even smaller. That's because only 7% of people in the national registry are of Hispanic descent.

"I figure, if I could bring awareness and let other people know about bone marrow helping and saving lives and giving people a chance, then it would better the world around," said Garza.

To help get his message out the blood center plans to hold a donor drive during the last week of August and on August 29th Central High School will hold an event leading up to its football team's first home game of the season.

"You can donate blood or get swabbed for marrow," said Garza.

Those interested in being a donor will undergo a cheek swab and be entered into the national registry. A program that could not only help save Garza's life, but others just like him.

"You could be the solution or the blessing or answer to someone's prayer who's been waiting for a second chance," said Garza.



Related Topics:
healthfresno countycancercentral unified school districtFresno
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