Patrick Ochs

D’Iberville and St. Martin come together to support Coast football legend battling cancer

D'Iberville and St. Martin made Jeremy Forehand an honorary captain for the big rivalry game on Nov. 3. Forehand has been battling clear cell renal cell carcinoma; although he received positive news during his latest doctor's visit.
D'Iberville and St. Martin made Jeremy Forehand an honorary captain for the big rivalry game on Nov. 3. Forehand has been battling clear cell renal cell carcinoma; although he received positive news during his latest doctor's visit. St. Martin High School

Jeremy Forehand could have stayed up all night if he wanted. Excitement was still coursing through his system well after the D’Iberville-St. Martin regular season finale.

Forehand, the former Warrior quarterback who is currently battling clear cell renal cell carcinoma, learned about a week before that he might be recognized during the rivalry game — but nothing could have prepared him for what he felt that special Friday night at Joe Barlow Stadium.

Wearing his blue St. Martin team polo, adorned with an orange ribbon, Forehand walked out to midfield to participate in the coin toss as a rare co-captain for both the team he grew up rooting for and the one he now helps on the sidelines. Forehand was admittedly in the zone — the honor seemingly taking him back in time to 1995.

If that Friday night was the subject of a Lifetime movie, that would have been the moment the camera panned out from a tight shot of Forehand with the referees and players to reveal both bleachers; black and gold on one side, gold and blue on the other, both with a healthy smattering of white and orange in support of their native and adopted son.

“I went out for the coin toss as the honorary captain of both teams — that’s cool enough right there, to captain both teams — but we went through the whole deal and when I went off the field I told people I hadn’t felt like that in 22 years,” Forehand said Monday. “Being on the field is one thing, but I felt like I was playing. I was so amped up at the beginning of that game. It’s just cool to look around and see all the orange. It was very surreal.”

The moment was actually orchestrated by the athletic directors of both schools, Harrison County’s Bobby Trosclair and St. Martin’s Jesse Kanode. Both have gotten to know Forehand over the years and even relied on him for support in different areas. When they learned of Forehand’s fight with cancer, that Friday night seemed like a perfect moment to bring the communities together.

“It was a moment to show how much both teams care about him,” Kanode said. “Once the word got out, it didn’t take long for both communities to join.”

As it turns out, honoring Forehand may have brought at least a moment of peace to two intertwined communities that are fiercely competitive when it comes to athletics.

“The best way I can put it is this: Every time D’Iberville plays St. Martin, there’s always something. Not always major, but something goes on whether it’s fans, players or coaches. Well, Jeremy Forehand is the only man I know who could bring peace to that event — and I mean that honestly,” Trosclair said. “It went off without a hitch two Fridays ago for the first time in probably 50 years and it had a lot to do with Jeremy because a lot of the folks who showed up were wearing his orange or white shirts.

“It was a peaceful event for the first time in 50 years because people were thinking about Jeremy rather than the rivalry and pride.”

Kanode added: “I think it put things into perspective for everybody: Yeah it’s a bitter rivalry, but there are things way more important than a football game.”

Good news

With that in mind, the Forehands have been fortunate during the short timeline of when Jeremy first felt ill in May and now.

After having a tumor over his left kidney removed, along with his kidney and adrenal gland, doctors still noticed four “spots” during one of Forehand’s scans at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Forehand opted for chemo pills as treatment and during his visit in September was given good news.

Three of the spots have all decreased in size. A fourth spot, around his liver, they believe to be a hemangioma and not cancerous.

“Right now, everything is progressing the way we want it,” Forehand said. “Everything seems positive so far. Nothing negative whatsoever from us or the doctors, so it’s all good to go right now.”

Forehand said he’ll head back to Houston in December for another checkup, at which point they’ll reassess their plan of attack moving forward.

One of the biggest side effects to his treatment, however, has been his hair turning white. It happens to most of us at some point — it just hit Forehand at age 40. Even with his accelerated track to using Just For Men, he’s kept his typical bright outlook on life — his Forehand spin, if you will.

“I talked to him today and he said, ‘I’m doing great. I wish they would take pictures of me from my good side,’” Trosclair said, laughing.

Outpouring of support

Both D’Iberville and St. Martin’s schools have held numerous benefits and fundraisers for Forehand to help cover his increasing medical costs.

Last Sunday the family hosted a benefit fish fry to largely help with his bills and travel to Houston.

The St. Martin Community Center was packed from 11 until nearly 4 p.m. as folks filtered in and out to show their support, get a bite to eat, watch the Saints whoop the Bills and bid on a few silent auction items.

Forehand almost equated it to a D’Iberville-St. Martin reunion, as he saw both current friends and immediate family, but also folks he hasn’t seen in ages.

“It’s humbling, that’s for sure. I’ve always been under the influence of you always help people out as much as you can. It was good to see everyone come out and help us. They know what we’re dealing with,” Forehand said. “They had people directly or indirectly dealing with the same type of thing. It’s really, really awesome to see everybody come together and help out.”

The small, seemingly innocuous conversations, where individuals opened up about their own run-ins with cancer, appeared to mean the most to the Forehands.

“It’s pretty damn special and pretty damn cool,” he said of the support.

After battling to find a parking spot because it was so packed, we ran into my wife’s aunt and uncle. He summed up Forehand similarly to countless others: Forehand has always been someone to drop whatever he’s doing if it meant helping a friend — or a stranger.

“I don’t know how he would find out, but if someone needed help, Jeremy always seemed to show up,” he said. “I don’t know how he found out, but there he was.”

Now it’s our turn to show up.

The last couple of weeks have made it increasingly clear that you’re not alone in this, Jeremy. The Coast has your back.

Anyone who would like to donate to the Forehands can do so at Keesler Federal Credit Union. You can also follow Forehand on Twitter at @Jeremy4Hand for updates on his battle and, of course, #wrasslin hot takes.

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs