‘No win could compare to this’: UPIKE Softball coach slams out final chemo treatment

Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 7:12 PM EST
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PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - Robert Staggs has led his University of Pikeville softball team on the field through a mix of wins and losses. But his most recent win is one they will remember above them all, as Staggs completed his final round of chemotherapy.

“It has been a journey. And I just thank the good Lord above. He’s been with me every step of the way,” said Staggs.

Staggs noticed a knot on his neck in June and soon found out it was cancerous. He was sent to the University of Kentucky for a biopsy, discovering that cancer spread from his left tonsil to his lymph nodes.

After deciding to seek treatment closer to home at Pikeville Medical Center, where he said his support system was closeby, Staggs began his journey through 33 rounds of radiation and six rounds of chemotherapy. During that time, he also had to have his gallbladder removed.

“October was a month that, honestly, I didn’t think I was gonna get through. If it wasn’t for my faith, wasn’t for the good Lord above, I honestly don’t think I would have gotten through it,” Staggs said.

His condition put him on the bench for a while, keeping him away from the field, but that did not keep him from his team.

“He’s always with us through conditioning. He’s always with us in practice. And seeing him not here and right across the street at PMC, doing chemo and radiation? It’s been really hard,” said junior softball player Haley Karr.

According to Karr and teammate Haley Ware, Staggs stayed involved with the team from afar and continued to inspire them, even when he was at his lowest. So they took every opportunity to do the same, even holding signs outside of Staggs’ home when he finished radiation treatments.

“It’s just something small that we can do for him because he saved all our lives in a way that he doesn’t even know,” said Ware.

Wednesday, when Staggs walked down the hospital hall to ring the bell signaling the end of his chemo treatments, some of his girls were there to cheer him on.

“Staggs was saying that he would listen to the bell,” said Ware. “He couldn’t wait for that moment.”

Karr said “you could just feel the relief in the room” as Staggs rang the bell a few extra times for emphasis. A moment that his girls said was better than any trophy.

“To see him win this battle? It’s just. No win could compare to this,” said Ware.

Now, Staggs waits for his follow-up appointment in Lexington at the end of January, saying he is thankful for the support of the PMC staff, his team, and his UPIKE family. But, he said, his wife Nanette has been his “angel on this earth,” continuing to stand by him through the journey.

“It’s a marathon. It’s not a sprint,” Staggs said. “We’ll just wait and see what happens. I mean, it’s in the Lord’s hands at this point.”

But Ware and Karr say they are more than happy to celebrate the closing of one part of his journey, using his own words to cheer him on.

“In the words of Coach Staggs, ‘For the love of God, it’s over!’”

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