In April, Jose Fernandez noticed a swollen groin muscle, but assumed it was just a pulled groin. A few months later, Fernandez was diagnosed with a very rare genetic form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma called Mantle B- Cell lymphoma. After getting a second opinion at MD Anderson, Fernandez has begun a five-year trial study to fight the disease.
NICEVILLE — "What now?" is a question Jose Fernandez never thought he would have to ask, but that all changed earlier this year.
Jose, assistant coach of the girls’ soccer team at Niceville High School, noticed after a game in April that his groin muscle was swollen. At the time, Jose chalked it up to a pulled muscle.
After a couple weeks of the swelling continuing, Jose went to the doctor who ran several tests that all came back perfectly fine. That was July.
In August when the swelling worsened, Jose found himself back at the doctor. After CAT scan results came back a bit off, Jose was sent for a biopsy of the swollen lymph nodes.
A week later, Jose was diagnosed with a rare form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma called Mantle B-Cell lymphoma.
“It’s hard to swallow,” Jose said. “We just leaned on each other’s shoulder and tried to figure out what to do.”
When they received the diagnosis his wife Kelly, who like her husband is very competitive, told him they would find a way to beat it. The couple then went to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center for a second opinion.
MD Anderson told Jose that the center would soon begin a five-year trial study on cancer treatment and Jose would be a perfect candidate for it.
Before being added to the study, the center had to run several tests and wait on insurance approval. Jose eventually received the 47th spot in a trial of 50 people.
During the first year of the trial, Jose will be treated with newly developed medicines before spending the second year doing high treatments of chemotherapy. After chemotherapy, he will return to drug therapy for the remainder of the trial.
He began the trial last month in Houston, where he will have to spend much of his time over the next five years in order to be near the doctors.
“It’s been very difficult not to get emotional,” Jose said. “I could have said let’s go straight into chemo, (but) if using it on me, they find better ways to do it for the next person, that would make me feel good.”
“We feel like maybe this is for everybody else,” Kelly added. “Maybe this happened because he’s a perfect candidate so that no one else has to suffer.”
Currently, Jose is feeling great and plans to remain active in coaching and teaching as long as he can. When he just sits around, he said he has too much time to think and he would rather spend his time doing what he loves.
While Jose’s prognosis through the trial and what comes next is unknown to the family, one thing they have learned in the early stages of the study is how much they are loved and supported.
Various friends, family members and former students have sent encouraging words, prayers and have told Jose and Kelly stories they remember of the impact the couple has made on their lives.
Some friends are selling “No Way!-Jose” shirts and created a GoFundMe page in an effort to raise money to help the family pay for expenses that go along with the trial.
“Now we see how many friends we really have after this,” Jose said. “It makes us smile first, then we cry about it but it definitely makes us stronger. We feel so blessed just seeing this response.”
While the Fernandez family is just beginning the battle, they have already learned a lesson.
“I’ve learned to pick up the phone and tell someone hi,” Kelly said. “Don’t wait to tell people how you feel.”
To donate to the GoFund me page, visit "The Coach Fernandez Fight to Kick Cancer" page or to order a shirt, click here.