CLEVELAND - Legendary Glenville football coach and Ginn Academy Founder Ted Ginn, Sr. is well-known for teaching important lessons on the football field and in the classroom. He said his battle against pancreatic cancer reinforced an important life lesson.
“Keep your faith and believe in God, and everything will work out,” Ginn said. “But, you gotta have a purpose.”
In 2012, following an unrelated procedure, doctors noticed Ginn’s declining blood sugar levels and discovered a tumor on his pancreas. It began a whirlwind of treatment, including multiple surgeries and a 60-day hospitalization.
“I didn't know I was going to be on death row,” he said. “I didn't know I was going to be in a coma 4, 5, 6 days.”
The 63-year-old said his strong faith and life’s purpose of serving others helped pull him through, defying the odds of a particularly lethal form of cancer.
“My family, and my church and what I do for a living kept me going, and I think that God saved my life for just what I do,” Ginn said.
He said he was impressed by the spirit of Jeopardy Host Alex Trebek, who announced Wednesday that he has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
“Normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I'm going to fight this and I'm going to keep working,” Trebek said in an online video. “And with the love and support of my family and friends, and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease."
According to the American Cancer Society, the average 5-year survival rate for all stages of pancreatic cancer is 9 percent. For a stage 4 diagnosis, the survival rate is 3 percent.
“By the time it shows up, it's very advanced, and it's kind of too late to do much,” said Dr. Davendra Sohal, a Cleveland Clinic oncologist who specializes in pancreatic cancer.
He said it’s a particularly aggressive form of cancer that is difficult to detect.
“There are no specific symptoms, there are no good tests. There's colonoscopy for colon cancer, there are skin exams for melanoma, for example. There's nothing for pancreatic cancer,” he said.
Sohal said aggressive chemotherapy is typically the best treatment option for pancreatic cancer, though there have been advances in other therapy options that only apply to a limited number of patients.
Despite the statistics, Ginn said he was blessed to defy the odds.
“I'm not a ghost. I'm not Casper. I'm here and I'm telling you, yeah, you can beat it.”