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A Tolton staple receives support from community

COLUMBIA, Mo (KMIZ)

Anyone who has ever been to a Father Tolton athletic event has probably seen Father Mike Coleman.

Baseball, football, softball, or wrestling: he's there.

"You hope you're touching people, especially at the high school level. I just love that place," Coleman said.

One, singular week definitely showed the love that the Tolton community and beyond had for Coleman.

On June 14, Coleman publicly announced he had thymus gland cancer. He said he was going to get surgery to remove two baseball-sized tumors from above his heart and lungs.

"I was dreading telling people because I carried this with me for about three weeks, I didn't even tell my sisters," Coleman said. "Then I started telling a few, select people, my sisters and my close friends and then I announced it publicly. I felt such relief after I did that because I was carrying it all by myself."

The news hit everyone different.

"I just broke down. You hate the hear that, but someone who has such a strong impact on our community, the way that he does, I still haven't really wrapped my head around it," said Lindsey Cunningham, a former Missouri women's basketball player and friend of Coleman.

"When I got that text I felt it too. My heart automatically dropped. But if anyone can go through this and have a positive attitude and fully put their trust in God, it's going to be Father Mike," said Sophie Cunningham, a fellow Missouri basketball alum and friend of Coleman.

Once Coleman's news came out social media flooded with well-wishes for the Tolton chaplain.

"I'm just so humbled by that," Coleman said.

The tweets and phone calls kept pouring in, even from some bigger names.

St. Louis Cardinal standouts Adam Wainwright and Ozzie Smith, along with the Last Man Standing's Jet Jurgensmeyer and the St. Louis Blues announcer sent messages via Twitter.

"It's like a fantasy camp, you know, a fantasy wish that kids get. I'm amazed," Coleman said. "I've loved Adam Wainwright since he joined the Cardinals in 2006. I just love him. For a few seconds they were thinking of me."

Coleman said the messages uplifted him as he headed into surgery and now he is working to recover as he prepares for chemo therapy and radiation.

"I want to be the best cancer patient that I can be for Jesus," he said.

The Cunningham sisters said that mindset is no surprise to them.

"I think it just goes to show that he doesn't just talk-the-talk, he walks-the-walk," Lindsey said.

"As an athlete and now a professional athlete, people ask well what motivates you, what really inspires you," Sophie said. "It's people like Father Mike who do."

Coleman said he hopes to return to Father Tolton in just two short months as school begins in the fall.

Even through all this, students, friends and family alike say he will never truly know the impact he has made.

Columbia / High School Sports / Sports / Sports Feature

Nathalie Jones

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