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Waterford Girl’s Basketball Coach Battling Stage 4 Melanoma

WATERFORD -- You wouldn't know it at first glance, but Stage 4 melanoma has forced 30-year-old Josh Whitfield to the sidelines for just about everything in his life.

His hair, his energy, his full-time job with a PR firm, even his time as a Waterford City Councilman -- everything except his role as head coach of Waterford's girls basketball program.

"We're in a good spot now. Six months ago it was more of a bleaker situation," Whitfield said.

Back in August, cancer quickly spread through Whitfield's lymphatic system. He's endured four surgeries since then, radiation and chemotherapy to aggressively attack the cancer.

"I think you get that warrior's mentality, and I looked at it as a war. It's tough to be an arm-chair general because all I can do really is read reports, and it was up to the doctors, and really up to the treatment to go and do the job," Whitfield said.

At 6-feet-4-inches, Whitfield knows a thing or two about war. He was a sergeant in the Army where he earned the purple heart when he nearly lost his life back in 2008.

"Easter Sunday, 2008 in Baghdad, and I was hit with an RPG," he said.

He suffered severe head trauma, but eventually pulled though. And that's exactly what he's expecting to do now with his current illness, and coaching his girls has been the best therapy he could have asked for.

"I've said this is my golf game, this is my hobby. You need to do something that fulfills you as a blessing, and being able to give back to these girls and just really, you actually learn more from them than they do from you," Whitfield said.

"I think we're really his rock. I think girls basketball is really what helps him out a lot. It's kind of like his escape from the real world you could say," sophomore Alexa Aguilar said.

"You can definitely tell when he has his bad days, but he tries to hide it just for us," senior Rebekah Shepherd.

"Yeah, it's definitely been an inspiration to me that he just pushes through everything and is still there for us when he's at his worst," senior Madi Vanmater said.

"It was important to have something to hold on to. Even though I had to miss some days, and some games and practices," Whitfield said.

Coach Whitfield hopes the worst is behind him. He's planning on going back to his day job the first week in February. And his Wildcats aren't doing too bad either -- they're 16-2 heading into Thursday night's game.