Patrick Ochs

Cancer has nothing on this former D’Iberville Warrior’s ‘#wrasslin’ determination

Jeremy Forehand watches the Bulldogs warm up before the game between Itawamba Community College and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College at A.L. May Memorial Stadium, Perkinston, Thursday, August 31, 2017. Forehand, who is a D’Iberville native, is currently undergoing cancer treatment.
Jeremy Forehand watches the Bulldogs warm up before the game between Itawamba Community College and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College at A.L. May Memorial Stadium, Perkinston, Thursday, August 31, 2017. Forehand, who is a D’Iberville native, is currently undergoing cancer treatment.

If you’re a sports fan from the Coast — D’Iberville, specifically — then chances are you know Jeremy Forehand, or at least know of him.

Born and raised in D’Iberville, Forehand quarterbacked the Warriors from 1993-95 (and was subsequently snubbed for All-Coast honors by this publication, something he’s not shy about bringing up).

Forehand started working at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in April 1998 and has worked his way up to Director of Operations. That’s where others may know him. He’s constantly running around there, helping to set up and break down events — always smiling.

If you follow him on Twitter — @Jeremy4Hand — or are friends on Facebook, you know he’s big into all things Florida State, #wrasslin’, his family and selfies — especially selfies with his wife and daughters. (My personal favorite was taken after he took a cleat to the face while working the sideline of a D’Iberville football game two years ago; there he is, cotton sticking out of his nose with his big, Cheshire Cat smile only slightly crooked as a result of the hit.)

He’s no longer delivering the smoothest handoff any quarterback on the Coast ever dreamed of, but he stays involved with South Mississippi’s football teams. For around 13 years, he has been a member of the “Paint Crew Posse” and chain crew at D’Iberville football games. His dad, Billy Forehand, has done it for around 40 years; and so, too, did Jeremy, until his oldest daughter, Macey, joined the varsity dance team at St. Martin in 2013. At that point, he traded in his black and gold polos for the Yellow Jackets’ blue and gold, helping coach Eddie Wayne Whitehead in a number of ways on the sidelines.

With his youngest, Lanie, also on the dance team, Forehand has remained at St. Martin on Fridays while also helping with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s chain crew on Thursday nights.

As heated rivals growing up, donning the Yellow Jackets’ blue and gold was probably one of the most difficult internal battles for a proud Warrior.

The Ultimate Warrior

But now Forehand is in a real battle with clear cell renal cell carcinoma.

In May, Forehand said he noticed blood while urinating. Hoping it was just kidney stones, he went to the doctor on a Thursday and by the following Wednesday was on the operating table. A CT scan had found a 12-centimeter tumor above his left kidney, so they removed it, along with his kidney and adrenal gland.

Forehand said the severity of everything sunk in prior to surgery when the nurse practitioner informed him of his test results.

“When she came in the room it just seemed like something was wrong. You could kind of tell,” he said. “When she proceeded to tell us, it was almost like you’re hearing things but you’re not hearing things.

“I just remember my wife got a little upset, and then as soon as that happened it came my way. That was one thing to me — as soon as (Janet) got it, it got me. I don’t know if I became numb or how you want to explain it, but I was just there. You know?”

When Forehand initially got the news, he said his mind went somewhere he didn’t exactly expect.

“You would think the first thing is I’m worried about myself, but I almost felt like I was the opposite where I was more worried about my wife and kids,” he said. “I don’t know what it was. It’s like you have that instinct in you and it came right on out.

“I didn’t have to pull it out or anything. I was more worried about them than myself.”

Second opinion

After more than a month, Forehand went for a second opinion at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The mid-July trip confirmed what the Forehands already knew, but with some good news.

They had previously seen some other spots on his CT scan, so Forehand underwent a MRI and a bone scan. It revealed a spot below Forehand’s wind pipe along with other spots in his lungs, a lesion in his liver and another lesion by his right adrenal gland.

“The main thing was he wanted to make sure the cancer wasn’t in my bones and wasn’t in my brain. Those are the two bad spots,” Forehand said. “The next spot they say is really bad is your liver, which the lesion could be cancerous or something that has always been there. You just don’t know.”

Forehand was offered several different treatment options and opted for pills, which he’s been taking for about six weeks now. He’ll go back to Houston for another checkup in two weeks.

“The plan is we’ll see what the medicine does with it,” he said. “I’m assuming the next scan will gauge which way we’re going. He said if it only maintains (the cancer) and doesn’t shrink it or get rid of it, down the line they could look at doing some other kinds of treatments like radiation, freezing it or possibly even surgery.”

Remaining positive

Through everything; the surgery, the multiple scans, the medicine and the fatigue that has accompanied the pills, Forehand has remained his usual self. If you didn’t know what he was going through, you wouldn’t know.

“I don’t know if it’s just my personality or whatnot. I don’t know if it’s the fact I’m fixing to be 40 — I’m a man, I’m 40; I don’t know if it’s just having my kids as young as I had them forced me to grow up sooner or my job and dealing what I deal with. Maybe I’ve learned to relax a little bit.”

He continues to walk around with that Cheshire Cat grin, permanently affixed to his face.

“He’s taking it a lot better than I could,” his dad said before D’Iberville’s first fall scrimmage at Buddy Singleton Field; a home away from home for the Forehands.

In the weeks after his diagnosis, his family began selling orange wrist bands that have a luchador mask, a fleur-de-lis, a football, “Jeremy” and of course the slogan “Wrasslin’ Cancer.” The outpouring of support was immediate, with friends, family and even strangers tweeting and posting photos of their support.

“He’s just a great guy. He’ll give the shirt off his back for anyone and always pays it forward,” said Ladd Taylor, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Perkinston Campus vice president, who has known Forehand dating back to 2008 when he became the Bulldogs’ athletics director. “If I saw Jeremy and he wasn’t smiling, I’d know something was wrong. Even through this struggle and adversity, he has maintained the smile on his face and has stayed positive. He’s a jokester. He’s always going to laugh and joke around and I think that’s what has helped him through this process.”

An account was just set up at Keesler Federal Credit Union to help with medical expenses called the “Jeremy Forehand Benefit Account.” A fish fry in November for the Forehands is planned. Both the St. Martin and D’Iberville high schools also have something in the works.

Player of the Week surprise

The Warriors already surprised Forehand last week when they asked him to unveil a wrestling belt to the team that will serve as a Player of the Week award.

Of course it was raining on the day Forehand unveiled the award, so the former Warrior hid the belt under his rain coat only to reveal the gold and black belt at the last moment — surprising many of the players.

The surprise also offered Forehand the opportunity to speak to the next generation of Warriors.

“I wanted to let them know that life will throw you curves here and there. When you’re playing football in high school you think you have so much time and so many games left, but at the drop of a dime it can be over and done and you’ll be graduating and have kids and life will roll on by whether you’re playing or not,” he said. “Like I told the kids, I may not be around them as much as I used to be, but if you put that black and gold on, you’re a Warrior for life whether you like it or not.

“It’s always going to come back to that. You may not realize you’re learning life lessons, but when you’re on that field and coaches are talking to you, you’re learning life lessons then and there.”

Optimistic outlook

The doctors have remained confident Forehand can beat what ails him. Even so, it could be easy to have your once optimistic world view completely turn upside down. But the fatigue, the glimpse of a person’s own mortality, the gray facial hair hasn’t changed Forehand.

“In talking with the doctor, he sounded positive with everything he told us and nothing sounded negative. He sure as heck didn’t tell us anything negative, so everything seems fine so far,” Forehand said. “I might have to give (cancer) a full nelson; or put it in a camel clutch, ala The Iron Sheik. Or could leg drop it like Hulk Hogan; stone cold stun it; rock bottom. Do I need to keep going?”

Forehand paused, looked around, and flashed his grin again.

“Cobra clutch like Sgt. Slaughter.”

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs