JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Off to a hot start in December with district play quickly approaching, St. Martin head coach Gina Bell stayed focused solely on her basketball team and the season at hand. But, it was around that time that she realized something wasn't right.
"I found a lump," Bell said. "I showed my assistant coach and a couple of the girls, I said this is kind of weird, you know? (They said) you need to get that checked out. I said as soon as basketball is over, I'll do it."
Going 25-4, the Yellow Jackets' impressive season ended with a trip to the state tournament. Soon after, Bell got the news.
"They said 'you have cancer,'" Bell said. "At first I was like, how do I have cancer? I believed it, but didn't believe it."
Bell leaves for MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston on Thursday, with appointments beginning the following day, and with that treatment, comes the costly medical bills. But, when she needed it most, the St. Martin community stepped up to the plate.
"I feel like, for this cause it's great," Yellow Jackets offensive lineman and Mississippi State commit Brandon Cunningham said. "It's for a great cause, it's for Mrs. Bell."
A blood drive to benefit St. Martin's ROTC program quickly morphed into a fundraiser for the school's favorite girl's basketball head coach. Along with the funds raised for Bell's medical expenses, Red Cross officials say they collected 41 units of blood, which could help to save up to 123 lives.
"It is so humbling," Bell said of her school's response to her diagnosis. "I've got kids that come up and just hug me, (they say) 'we love you, I hope you're okay, I'm praying for you.' I just feel loved."
At her core, Gina Bell is a basketball coach. She knows how to compete, and most importantly, she knows how to win.
Just like taking on an opponent in a playoff game, she's approaching her battle with cancer the only way she knows how.
"I like to see myself as a fighter," Bell said. "It's just gonna be another ball game, another basketball game. Four quarters. We're gonna win."
When asked if this was admittedly one of her tougher games she's faced, Bell responded with a smile.
"Probably," Bell chuckled. "Probably. But I can do it."
For those who were unable to donate Monday, there's another opportunity Tuesday April 17th. According to the "Support for Coach Gina Bell" Facebook page, you can donate at the L.H. Barnett Senior Center on Lamey Bridge Road in D'Iberville from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Be sure to say that you are donating in Bell's name.