Jan. 26, 2007

Page 13

sports • page 15

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‘His story is made for a TV special...’

Dave Porter talks about the story of Jason Struble and the tremendous difference his life made Alex Davis • Reporter In 1990, a Lancer athlete’s life forever changed Lafayette basketball and the lives around him. A day after Lafayette’s varsity basketball team beat the top team in the area, Jason Struble was rushed to the hospital. At the age of 17, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer (TC). For the next 26 months of on and off chemotherapy, Jason struggled with the TC that eventually spread through his body. In Jason’s last week of his life, the only thing he asked of his parents was that they spread the word about TC to every young man in the St. Louis area so no one else would have to go through what he did. On May 1, 1992, Jason lost his twoyear battle with cancer. Then, the Jason A. Struble Memorial Cancer Fund was born. “His story is a made for TV special,” Coach Dave Porter said, “His life made a difference.” Here is where it begins. Jason’s last game was Senior Night. That season, two players quit the team for personal reasons, and prior to the start of the season, one of the starting players had quit, leaving the team in a tight spot. “Jason had always been a great player and he always gave a lot of heart on and off the court,” Porter said. This might be what Porter found so strange later that night during the game. “On a back and forth fast break, Jason wasn’t running, so I pulled him out of the game and asked him why he didn’t run. He responded ‘I just couldn’t catch my breath Coach. Just give me a minute and I’ll be ready,’” Porter said. The team went on to win, but that is not what the Struble family remembers. Later that night, Jason was sitting in his house with his mom when he suddenly screamed in pain.

photo courtesy of Tom Struble

•Practicing Up Jason Struble (Class of 1990) practices his shot during warm-ups. His death from testicular cancer inspired his parents and Head Basketball Coach Dave Porter to educate young men about the disease.

His performance in the game and the scream were the first hints that something was terribly wrong. The next day, Porter was given a note that said Jason was in the hospital and may not be able to play basketball again. From there, he faced a painful struggle including chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and months in the hospital. He spent the last 30 days of his life with his family in the Ozarks and at his house. Jason did not want to return to hospitals, despite the fact that his doctors wanted him to fly to New York for an experimental drug that had a shot of saving him. But in order for it to work, the doctor said he would have to have been off of chemotherapy for 30 days. Jason knew “he wasn’t going to make

it,” Porter said. “Jason realized if he would have told someone sooner about [the lump on] his testicle, he would have lived,” Porter said. “Jason wanted his life to have meaning. He said that as long as he saved one life, that it would,” Porter said. Porter said the educational programs created through the foundation have, to date, saved 18 lives that they know of. “He [Jason] rallied so many together so that his life could have meaning, and I know it always will,” Porter said. During Jason’s last week, he told his mom he wanted her to educate young boys about TC and self-examination. Not only has she done that, but Tom and Doris Struble, Jason’s parents, and Porter, have both been extremely proactive in the foundation they created together. In fact, they have started to reach out internationally with a video that was made to inform high schoolers about the danger of neglecting signs. Another reason why Jason’s story is so special is because of the video. “The way the video was made seemed as if it was divine intervention,” Porter said, “Tom came to me with an idea for a video. And later that week, a guy from my church came to my house and asked if he could shoot a video for the church in my front yard, and afterwards I got his information so we could set up the video.” The video is now “two years away from being in every high school in the United States,” Porter said. “We have sent tens of thousands of videos across the nation and have even sent them to England and to the Far East,” Tom Struble said. Since the foundation was started, 18 young men have caught their cancer and been able to cure it. Five of them have been at Lafayette.

“He [Jason] rallied so many together so that his life could have meaning, and I know it always will,” Porter said. Not only have his parents been to local high schools telling Jason’s story, but Porter has used his position as a coach to be able to set himself up at basketball camps and schools to tell Jason’s story. “Every year I go to Wydown Middle School in Clayton to remind them and tell the story. I tell them it’s wonderful to be young, but you are not invincible. I’ll tell you, every time I finish my speech, the whole crowd is just so attentive and silent you could hear a pin drop,” he said. Porter sees amazing feedback whenever he makes his trips to Wydown Middle School. “If you listen really closely, you won’t hear my voice, you will hear his [Jason’s]. I am just a messenger doing what he wants us to do,” Porter said. The foundation has not only made itself available to high schools for educational purposes, but also raises money, every year during the Jason Struble Basketball Shootout and Jason’s Tournament For Life golf tournament. In the first year of the foundation, the Tournament For Life raised $35,000. Last year the foundation raised $21,000. There has been some outside support of the foundation, as well. “Doug Elgin of the Missouri Valley Conference has been very pro-active and helpful. He gives tickets to auction off to the MVC [Missouri Valley Conference] tournament,” Porter said. This year, the 15th anniversary of his death has had many look back at the efforts they have made. “I have been very devoted [to the foundation] and also reaching out to young men,” Tom Struble said, “Saving one life is worth all the years we have put into this.”


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