Football was a major part of Jim Hatfield’s life so it was only natural that it was part of his successful journey through lung cancer too.
Hatfield and his doctor, Craig Kovitz, M.D., assistant professor of general oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center who cares for patients at MD Anderson Regional Care Center in the Bay Area, bonded over football at their first visit four years ago when Hatfield was first diagnosed.
Their football link continues today even though the two only see each other twice a year for follow-up visits.
In November, thanks to the Chris Draft Family Foundation, Hatfield and Kovitz had the opportunity to watch the Houston Texans play the Jacksonville Jaguars on beautiful Houston afternoon, and compare notes on football and life. Their families enjoyed the time together too, with Dr. Kovitz’s young daughter, Allie, taking in her first professional football game and Hatfield’s wife, Laurie, having the chance to sit in the stands with her husband, a former high school football coach who typically roamed the sidelines.
For Hatfield, the 1998 Houston Chronicle Coach of the Year, Kovitz was his “head coach” during his lung cancer treatment which included radiation and chemotherapy.
“The treatment can knock you down, but you just have to get back up and keep going, just like in football,” said Hatfield, who successfully coached high school football in Texas for 32 years. “Dr. Kovitz guided me through everything and told me, ‘This is what we’re doing and we believe it’s going to work.’ I had total confidence in him and the team around me.”
“It was truly a blessing for my daughter Allie and me to spend an afternoon watching football with Mr. Hatfield and his lovely wife. So often people inquire about what I do and how I deal with so much struggle and grief pervading my day, but it’s moments like the ones I was able to share with Coach Hatfield that make it all worth it. To see a man fight so hard and have such faith that ultimately brings him through a battle with lung cancer is the inspiration that carries me.”
It was when Dr. Kovitz told Hatfield that he only needed to see him twice a year, that Hatfield knew he was a survivor. Though Hatfield is cancer free, he has some lingering side effects from the treatment.
“Have faith in the health care team you have around you. Whether you are an athlete or a patient, you have to trust each other,” said Hatfield, who played quarterback in high school in Kansas. “Look for that team of doctors, nurses, radiation therapists and others, and don’t be satisfied until you have the right team assembled.”