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‘I’m going to fight’: St. Patrick basketball coach battles cancer, remains optimistic

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 9:39 PM CST
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - A well-known South Mississippi coach, who’s used to battling against opposing teams is now battling pancreatic cancer.

But, the veteran leader’s mantra while coaching is the same as he fights the disease, never give up.

“She’s not my mama, she’s my wife but I call her mama,” said St. Patrick girls basketball coach Dave Gaunce. “Mama and I have always wanted to be the givers and we want to give, but now I’m on the receiving end of that. For an old coach, sometimes that’s humbling”

Coach Dave Gaunce has been coaching basketball and football for nearly 40 years. But last November, he was faced with a challenge that he hadn’t quite game planned for.

“The doctor said I hate to tell you this the day before Thanksgiving,” Gaunce recalled. “But we have found a mass on your pancreas and we believe it is cancer.”

The St. Patrick Catholic High School head girls basketball and assistant football coach began chemotherapy treatment last week.

Due to the loss of strength, he hasn’t been able to return to work. But he’s gotten hundreds of text messages and phone calls from former and current players.

He said what happened at St. Patrick’s mass last week after the father called him to the front, nearly left him in tears.

“I look around and I see almost 700 people with their arms up praising God and praying for me,” he said. “It was unbelievable. But that’s the way St. Patrick Catholic High School is. They just love you to death.”

Financial support has been overwhelming. Already, a GoFundMe account has raised nearly $16,000.

“I’m going to fight and on the backside of this, man, we are going to have an awesome story to tell,” said Gaunce. “We are going to have an awesome story to tell.”

Coach Gaunce’s two daughters, Denae and Keli, created the page “Coach’s Corner” on Facebook to keep everyone updated. If you visit the page, you can also find the link to the GoFundMe account.

First round of chemo officially done, and someone wanted to say something. 😂♥️💪 Coaches gonna coach. 👏👏

Posted by Coach's Corner on Friday, January 7, 2022

There’s no timetable for his return, but he’s hopeful to get back to the bench before the basketball season ends.

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