By Joseph Sykes | Sports Editor
John Rhodes is a man familiar with success. From being a standout basketball player at Ohio University in the late 1980s to coaching his alma mater to the NCAA tournament in 2005, the Dukes’ assistant coach never had trouble making a name for himself.
When Rhodes was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma last April, a form of skin cancer, he sure wasn’t going to let the disease stop him from continuing to be a successful father, friend and coach.
“You can’t walk into it thinking [treatment] may not work, because it is what it is and it’s got to work,” Rhodes said. He was right.
“I’ve completed my treatment and in about two weeks, I have a follow-up and as it stands, the tumor is gone. The cancer hasn’t spread,” Rhodes said. It was fantastic news that warranted grins all around the table.
Despite the confidence Rhodes had in himself going into treatment, when he first learned of his diagnosis, he was stunned. He was familiar with the sickness as it affected a few members of his family, but he still had a hard time coming to grips that this was his reality.
“I’ve dealt with a lot with my family and I’ve lost friends,” Rhodes said. “But for me, it was one of those things when Dr. Anish and Victor Bauer, the athletic trainer, sat me down and said this is what it is, it’s hard to process. It was very difficult.”
In the weeks after his diagnosis, it was clear Rhodes wasn’t catching any breaks. On a sunny afternoon in Philadelphia, the coach was hit by a car in early February resulting in the breaking of both his tibia and fibula. Not once, though, did Rhodes ever pity himself for the cancer or even the accident.
“I never really said, ‘why me?’” he explained. “Things happen for a reason.”
Things are getting better, however. As of last week, Rhodes said his leg is almost completely healed, and he is slowly regaining the 80 pounds he lost from having to consume his meals through a feeding tube.
Junior center Darius Lewis spent a lot of time with Rhodes over the past three years. Rhodes helped coach the centers. He believes there are valuable lessons to take from Rhodes’ struggles this past year.
“Seeing how he stayed strong and stayed positive really sets the example for us. If he can do it and stay positive, we can try and follow that same thing what ever we come and go through,” Lewis said.
Head coach Jim Ferry, who joined the coaching staff the same year Rhodes did (2012), wasn’t surprised in the least that his co-worker and friend was able to tough it out.
“He’s one of the strongest and mentally toughest human beings I’ve ever met in my life,” Ferry said. “The way he approached this, he was so positive. He was still looking and caring for other people, making sure everyone was alright.”
Rhodes was eager to give his thanks to everyone involved on his road to recovery. He stressed one powerful phrase that’s only three words deep: “I’m just blessed.”