‘It’s a miracle’: Longtime coach Dan Campbell’s cancer is in full remission

St. Dominic Academy track and field coach Dan Campbell works with pitchers Gabby Roman, left, and Ethan Berube at the school in Auburn in March 2021. Fifteen months after his diagnosis Campbell’s cancer is in complete remission. Daryn Slover/Sun Diary

When Dan Campbell was initially diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his doctors gave him six months to live.

Nearly a year and a half later, not only is the longtime athletics, cross-country and Nordic ski coach still alive, but he was told last week, on Good Friday, that lymphoma no Hodgkin disease in his stomach, spleen and chest, as well as the squamous cell carcinoma of the neck and throat are in complete remission.

Campbell said he doesn’t think receiving the news on Good Friday was a coincidence.

“Basically, the oncologist called me on Friday because I had a PET scan (positron emission tomography) done on Wednesday, Campbell said. “They were going to tell me about the PET scan, because it scans the body for living cancer cells. Friday was Good Friday, the day that led to the resurrection of Christ. He calls me late on Friday and says, ‘Dan, are you seated?’ And I say, ‘Oh, no. Yeah, I’m sitting. He says: “I just want to let you know that you are 100% in remission from both cancers.”

“I didn’t know how to react. I was numb.

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After months of radiation and chemo, Campbell’s cancer disappeared.

The radiation on his neck caused third-degree burns on the inside and outside of his neck. He still can’t swallow properly and needs medication to help him. He has lost 46 pounds and is often tired. He is also undergoing treatment to end his addiction to OxyContin painkillers, which he was given to help with the pain caused by the radiation treatments. Campbell has been overcoming addiction for more than three decades and is a longtime addiction counselor, so he understands the importance of this step.

“If you know anything about me, you know I’m a drug addict, but I haven’t had anything for 35 years,” Campbell said. “They gave me OxyContin, and I didn’t hesitate to take it. It became another hell for me. I became addicted to it. I’m still there and I’m working on a program to wean myself off it, and they’re helping me. … I had nine chemos in a row with radiation, and I had a lot of chemo fog. It was scary and extremely painful, and being addicted to OxyContin was my biggest fear from the start.

Campbell said the treatments were going well.

He will also suffer another 12 to 18 months of residual effects from radiation and chemo, but his health is returning. So he is making big active plans for the future.

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The day after he found out his cancer was in remission, Campbell realized he had finally gotten his life back.

“The next day it hit me: I can live, I can live,” Campbell said. “I have things I can do. I can see my grandchildren, I can go to school and get my Masters degree in Divinity, help people, go out and see my friends. A few of my friends m said, ‘Dan, slow down.’ I said, ‘Slow down? I’ve been slowing down for the last year and a half.

Campbell said he cycled nearly every day throughout his cancer treatment and on May 21 he will travel to Miramar, Florida for the Senior National Games 20k road race. The next day, Campbell will participate in a 40 kilometer race.

Campell said his inspiration to continue training came from the athletes he coached at Edward Little High School, UMaine-Farmington, and more recently, St. Dominic Academy and Thomas College.

“I qualified for the nationals, but I don’t know how I did; it was by the grace of God,” Campbell said. “I trained every day, I’m going to national championships and I’m going to try to kick ass. It’s because of my athletes. They showed me what to do and how to do it. I want to reimburse my athletes going to national championships.

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Campbell also wants to travel the country and meet her friends and family. Her son, Ian, daughter-in-law, Angela, and grandson, Parker, live in Florida and all play golf. So Campbell adds that it’s his program.

” I am active. I cycle, I swim, I can’t run too much now, I hike and I love it,” Campbell said. “I always said that when I finally slow down, I’ll learn golf. I said, well, it’s time. My twin (sister) lives on a golf course, and my son too, so I want learn to play golf.

Campbell said later this year he plans to soon spend four days at the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina taking lessons from professional golfers.

After receiving prayers, cards, gifts and more than $74,000 through a GoFundMe page that was set up for him, Campbell now wants to give back too. He is starting what he calls a home for sick children. Campbell also wants to reach out to people to visit and just say thank you.

“The most important thing is that I want to visit people,” Campbell said. “They showed me so much love and every day I get something. They wish me luck, pray, give me gifts, cards and so I want to give it all back to them. It might take me a year, six months, but I’m going to meet people.

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Campbell said people’s words of encouragement and his faith helped him achieve remission.

“My remission – which is a miracle, because I was pronounced dead a year and a half ago, they gave me six months to live at first. What I feel is that it’s a miracle Campbell said. “It comes from Him. When I talk to you I get excited. It’s their energy, their thing. I feel it every day. Some days I get teary eyed. People can feel love, and that’s what life is, love.


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