Okmulgee football coach battling aggressive Stage IV cancer
OKMULGEE, Okla. (KTUL) —
A beloved Green Country football coach got some of the worst news of his life mid-season: Stage IV kidney cancer.
He finished coaching out the season but now is in a fight for his life.
Carl Lee, 34, has been the head coach at Okmulgee since 2016. His dad, Rocky, was the school superintendent before that. Now, Coach Lee is trying to win more than just a game on a field.
He’s used to fighting here, in between the white lines, but now, he won’t be fighting under Friday night lights; instead, it'll be from a hospital room.
“We were finishing up practice,” says Assistant Coach David Wilson. “Middle of practice when he got the phone call. It was tough.”
“Found out I have kidney cancer,” Lee says. “And it’s metastasized to a real small spot on my left arm.”
Lee, Okmulgee’s soft-spoken football coach, finished the season from the sideline.
“It was also tough on his dad, on Rock,” Wilson says. “Because he knew what the fight was going to come, and he didn’t want to see that for his son. No one wants to see that for their child.”
Rock beat cancer three years ago.
“The place where he’s taking his treatment he’s got the same doctor, Dr. Taylor, that I had up there,” Rocky Lee says with Carl’s 3-year-old son on his lap.
“It breaks your heart,” Rocky says. “We had one son that got killed in an industrial accident working at a glass factory, and then you have this happen here; it’s tough.”
“He needs to know that we’re backing him as a supportive family that’s encouraging him,” Wilson says.
It is a huge, community family sitting down for a spaghetti dinner.
“When you’re sitting around and you’re talking about someone you’ve known for your whole life,” says Tabetha Boss, an organizer. “And say ‘Hey we should do something’ and you have the means to do it, you just do it.”
“I don’t like things being about me,” Carl says with tears in his eyes. “That’s just the way I am. Whether we win or we lose or whatever, it’s not about me.”
“Growing up here, you’re a fighter,” he says. “It’s just what we do and coming from the family I come from that’s what we do, we fight.”
Coach Lee has one more round of chemo next week. He says there’s a good chance they’ll take his right kidney, but he went home Monday night with more than $1,500 to help his family.
If you missed the event but would still like to donate, you can find a link to its Facebook page by clicking here. Or contact the organizer directly on Facebook through this link.