A 1990 graduate of Nevada High School is in the battle of his life with cancer, but is completely at peace with his faith.
Greg Wycoff, a husband and father of three who lives in Ankeny, has a positive mental outlook that stems from a strong relationship with his Lord and Savior. For more than 20 years, this former standout Nevada High School athlete has been coaching youth sports and now works as the director of fundraising for Kingdom Cares, a statewide boys’ and girls’ Christian-based basketball program in Ankeny.
Through his coaching and strong faith, Wycoff has helped kids make the best of their talent, set goals and strive for their dreams. He believes anything is possible, even beating brain cancer for a second time.
"I will beat this (cancer) with God’s help, positive and optimistic thoughts and prayers from family, friends and people I may not even know," Wycoff said. "The Lord has plans for me and my life."
His first bout with cancer, which he describes as the "most difficult occurrence and fight I ever had to overcome" started Feb. 3, 2008, when he suffered a grand mal seizure. A CAT scan and MRI showed a 5 cm brain tumor in the shape of an egg in Wycoff’s left temporal lobe.
Surgery was scheduled for a month later in Iowa City and lasted six-and-a-half hours, with doctors being unable to remove the entire tumor. To treat the malignant parts of the tumor that remained in his brain, Wycoff underwent six weeks of radiation treatment in conjunction with a reduced amount of chemotherapy drugs. When the radiation was completed, he took the full amount of chemotherapy drugs for six months.
During this initial battle with cancer, some incredible moments happened, showing Wycoff that he was not alone in his fight. Not only did he have the support of his family, including his wife, Christy, and their three children – Taylor, 21, Sydney, 14 and Carson, 11 – and other family and friends, but he also had God.
He wrote the following about two experiences that he describes as "amazing":
"In the radiation treatment process, there is a form-fitted mask that fits tight on your face. It has holes in it to breathe and then is locked down to the treatment table before the radiation treatment starts… every time she (the medical professional) had locked down the mask to the table and walked out of the room to start the treatment, I would always say a quick prayer to God and Jesus to help me beat the cancer that was still left in my brain."
In the middle of his third week of treatment, Wycoff wrote, "When I started to pray, I heard a strong devout voice say, ‘Look over here,’ which came from my left side. With the mask locked down and swelling on the left side of my head, I could not see out of my left eye, but when I looked to the left with my right eye, I saw Jesus Christ right there. After this treatment, I knew I was beating the cancer that was left with Jesus’ help, and I would be completely healed."
Eight months after his surgery, another amazing experience took place when Wycoff was given conflicting professional opinions about whether to continue or discontinue the chemotherapy pill he was taking. He decided to turn to God, but didn’t expect God’s answer to come to him so clearly.
Deciding to go to his chapel and pray about it, Wycoff said he bowed his head and started his silent prayer. "Dear God, Heavenly Father, I need to know if I should continue taking the chemo medicine or not, and immediately, there was a loud ‘No’ yelled out behind me. It was so loud it startled me sitting in the chair…" He prayed again, "Heavenly Father, I believe I just heard your answer, but I am going to ask again, should I continue taking the chemo medicine or not? And again, immediately there was a loud ‘No’ yelled out to me. I then thanked the Lord above and told the doctor the next day that I did not want to take the medication anymore."
The second fight
For the past five years, Wycoff, who received MRIs every six months, had been cancer-free, but on Jan. 13 of this year, he was told there were two tumors that had grown in a higher location than the first tumor.
This time, surgery is not an option. Wycoff is having two separate IV drug treatments every two weeks. "So far, I have had three treatments and feel great," he said, putting emphasis on the word great.
It was difficult to hear the news about the cancer returning, but Wycoff said that as hard as it is, he and his wife believe he will beat this again. And Wycoff said he is happy it’s him that is suffering, and not his wife or children. "I have always prayed to give cancer back to me, not a family member, because I want to battle it again, versus my wife or kids having to."
This time around, a group of former coaches/teachers and friends, led by Gary Vasey, who was one of Wycoff’s basketball coaches when he was in high school and also his seventh-grade geography teacher, is helping Wycoff with his fight.
"The Wycoff family has freely given their time and financial support to the Nevada community for 70 years," Vasey said. So he asked around to see if others would help him organize a benefit to help Greg’s family, and the response was overwhelming.
Even though he’s been retired for nine years from the district, Vasey said the Nevada School District welcomed his idea to put on a basketball benefit on April 5, and the event has gained momentum as others have helped. (See sidebar for all the details.)
"Front office secretary Rita Foley helped me with technology. High school office secretaries Sue Morrical and Sami Harmon, and Dave McCaulley helped to guide me through the process of scheduling an event. Randy See, high school custodian, has always been very helpful setting up what I needed for an event. Candy Anderson, food service director, helped me plan out how much of each food item I would need. All were very professional," Vasey said.
All of Wycoff’s former coaches and some former teammates agreed to help too. They include Mike Foley, Chris Nady, Larry Parker, Toby McCarter, Chad Highland, Karl Corbin and others.
"The community has been very supportive with donations of items for the lunch, silent auction and volunteering to help," Vasey said, noting this help includes the business community and school, and involves the Booster Club and Coach Joel Fey.
"Twenty-five of Greg’s 31 teammates from 1988-1992 are returning to play (basketball). We are still trying to locate players from out of state," Vasey said.
Memories and friends
Wycoff has great memories of all his coaches and fellow teammates; he is looking forward to seeing all these people at the benefit to personally thank them for their thoughts and prayers, and of course, to reminisce.
Wycoff remembers how, when he was a sophomore playing for Vasey, there were five guys – himself, Jerome Rewerts, Steve Valline, Dan Pohlman and Toby McCarter – who made up a name for themselves, the RBUs. "It was a priceless name standing for something crazy, funny, but true - Running Butt Uglies. The fans thought RBU stood for Reserve Bench Unit." And for two years, Wycoff said, the team of five was called this by the students and fans.
What he remembers about Coach Vasey was that "he believed in us! That gave us so much confidence and passion to go 100 percent at everything in practice, even conditioning."
Wycoff has other sports memories that involve the other coaches. Of the football coaches, he remembered Nevada being way ahead of most schools with some of the plays they ran, including the old "razzle dazzle" play. "I would toss the football behind my back to the wingback that would be running the opposite direction. It was a great play; always successful." He remembers the track coach, Parker, always having strategies to win and creating a competitive setting for teammates to get the right people into the right events. He remembers Coach Corbin in baseball putting him in the starting shortstop position as a freshman, even though he wasn’t a very good hitter. "He had me batting first to hopefully get walked or hit by a pitch and then steal second base." He also remembers his first early basketball coaches – Fedler and Uhlenhop – who required patience and passion; and his AAU coach – Martin – who took time away from his family to help the boys grow as players.
Now, when all these coaches, teammates and friends from his high school days in Nevada are coming together to help him, Wycoff said that "words, sentences, paragraphs cannot express how terrific it will be, spending time with such loving, caring, giving people that will be at the benefit that night that we may not have seen in over 30 years. A special time like this is never replaceable and brings back fantastic memories and support as we all go through our lives."
And to think that all of this is happening because of something called cancer. It makes it a little surreal.
"When given information like this (that you have cancer), it is never easy for anyone, but how you overcome difficult situations shows who you are down deep inside. Our mental mindset is a positive one for each and every day," Wycoff said.
The man with brain cancer, who saw the image of Jesus, has also seen a much bigger picture about life. "Always smile and enjoy your 1,440 minutes you have each day. Never focus on your shortcomings; look at the things you do well and love."
Wycoff said he has a goal of writing a short book on his life, select items, activities and experiences; a book about helping other people and defining what life truly is each day – a gift.
Greg Wycoff Benefit
"Fighting the good fight means truly never being alone."
April 5, Nevada High School
Silent Auction & 50/50 Raffle in Foyer
$5 minimum donation at the door
4-5:30 p.m. Meal in the Nevada High School Commons
5:30-6:30 Basketball Game with teammates from Classes of 1988-1992
6-6:10 Halftime events/memorabilia auction
9-midnight Dance featuring Danny Grause, ReverbNation at Indian Creek Country Club
Donations can be made at the event or sent to:
Greg Wycoff Benefit Fund
1121 South G Avenue
Nevada, IA 50201
For electronic transfer, call 382-3050