After a few weeks of coughing, Rob Drake decided he needed to get something checked out. It turned out to be more than just a cold.
Drake found out he had lung cancer on Nov. 16.
"I was in shock," he said.
T-R PHOTO BY ANDREW POTTER
Rob Drake stands in his Marshalltown home Friday. The East Marshall High School teacher and coach was diagnosed with lung cancer in November and found out last week it is in stage four.
The Marshalltown resident is a five-year teacher and coach at East Marshall High School. He told his varsity girls' basketball team after their first game this season that he was stepping down as head coach to get treatment.
"That was obviously an emotional night," Drake said.
Drake, 55, was dealt another blow when doctors told him Nov. 30 that his cancer is in stage four and it was in his bones and brain as well as his lungs. Stage four is not curable, but it can be treated, he said.
He had his first round of radiation this past week and will start his chemotherapy next week. He has continued to teach health and driver's education at the high school in Le Grand, when he's not getting treatments or checkups.
Doctors have not told him how long he can expect to live.
"Maybe it's one year, maybe two years or maybe I'll get lucky and it will be 10 to 20 years," Drake said. "Everything depends on how your body accepts the chemo."
The non-smoker is not sure how he got cancer and said he may never know. He is sure the cancer has led to appreciation for the support he's received and wanting to live every day to the fullest.
"You start thinking about 'what if' - what do I want to do if I have a short time," Drake said. "You take it one day at a time and appreciate all the people who have supported you."
He said the East Marshall community has been very supportive, as have his fellow coaches in the conference and neighbors in Marshalltown.
"The outreach I've received is unbelievable," he said.
He also has been inspired by an aunt in Minnesota who beat colon cancer and she feels he can do the same. He strongly encourages those who think they might have something wrong with their lungs to get a chest X-ray, as it would have helped his situation to catch the cancer earlier.
If his time is limited, Drake said he wants to make sure he travels with his wife, JoAnn, and spends time with their three grown children and seven grandchildren.
Longtime assistant coach Darrin Nuese has taken over the girls' team as head coach this season and feels the team has handled the situation well.
"The girls have had a pretty good attitude," Nuese said. "They want to win and dedicate the season to Coach Drake. He's had a very positive influence on them."
Nuese told the team Nov. 30 when he heard the cancer was at stage four.
"They were pretty emotional about it," Nuese said. "We kind of talked about it and encouraged each other."
East Marshall has organized a special event during the Mustangs home basketball games with BCLUW on Dec. 18. Special T-shirts will be worn and a chili supper will be served with proceeds benefiting the American Cancer Society.