Jovan Dewitt is cancer free.
The outside linebacker and special teams coach for the Huskers made an appearance on the Husker Sports Nightly radio show Tuesday night and said that after three rounds of chemotherapy, 38 rounds of radiation treatment and just over four months of living with a form of throat cancer, a recent CAT scan revealed there were zero cancer cells left in his body.
“Long term, I should be able to make a full recovery,” Dewitt said. “I’m in the process of going through different therapy — occupational therapy, speech therapy, I’ve got to get these lymphatic massages so the lymphatic fluid gets flushed out of my body because my face looks pretty swollen right now.
“I’ll be able to make a full recovery. I’ve got a couple more weeks of therapy I’ve got to go through, but the prognosis is really pretty good to be able to live a long and normal life.”
Just this past week Dewitt got back on the recruiting trail for Nebraska. When camp season begins for the Huskers in June, Dewitt said he won’t be a full-time participant — though he’d probably like to be, saying “I just physically can’t do it quite yet” — but he will poke his head in as much as he can. Since his Jan. 20 diagnosis, he says he’s lost 95 pounds.
“Radiation does things to your body, and chemo obviously does as well, but it damages certain parts of your throat,” he said. “Really, quite honestly the inside of my throat started to look like hamburger so I really haven’t been able to eat much since probably February, that was really the last time I ate any kind of a significant meal.”
He had a feeding tube put in during spring ball that helped, but the weight loss can be attributed to both the treatment and the byproducts of that treatment.
Throughout the process, he said he got text messages and calls daily from current and former players. Players visited him in April when he spent the majority of the month in the hospital. He got calls and texts from kids he coached nearly two decades ago at Northern Michigan University, his first defensive coordinator job.
He thanked the rest of the Husker coaching staff, who he calls family rather than just his co-workers.
“When I speak about my family, I want to make sure everybody understands that I’m speaking about those guys as well,” he said. “In terms of how much they’ve checked on my family, twice a week they would bring over meals for my family just so my wife didn’t have to worry about cooking, which doesn’t sound like a lot but it’s a huge, huge thing.”
He thanked the staff at the Southeast Nebraska Cancer Center, where he was a patient.
“(They) really make you feel more like family than a patient,” he said. “I know I was kind of a pain in the butt to those guys sometimes and needing this and needing that. It’s been a long, hard trip, and they never once complained, they never once did anything, they just grabbed me and took hold of me and made sure I was going to be okay and comfortable.”
And he thanked his wife, Lisa.
“She has been a rock star,” he said. “She has driven me everywhere, taken me everywhere, taken care of me, checked on me at all different hours of the night, because this has been easily the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to go through, and I think anybody can go through. It really questions a lot of the things you believe in and for her to stand steadfast with me through everything, through every treatment I’ve gone through, has been really pretty amazing.”
Dewitt called football his relief. Even during spring ball when he wasn’t supposed to be out and about, he spent as much time in North Stadium and the Hawks Championship Center as he could, so much so his wife had to take his keys.
On Tuesday, he said he was even watching tape of a 2007 game between Illinois and Penn State.
“It’s really not what we (as coaches) do, it’s more of an obsession for us, so it really helps alleviate my mind of a lot of the worries I’ve had to go through over the last few months,” he said. “It’s very, very therapeutic for me to be able to be around football, talk football, coach football and just absorb as much of it as I can.”
July will bring some pre-planned vacation time for Dewitt and his family. He said the only prescription for the month is to “have as much fun as we possibly can together.” Head coach Scott Frost wants him to take as much time as he needs to get fully healthy. Dewitt is targeting the start of fall camp in August for a full return.
Before he ended his Sports Nightly call, he had one more “thank you” to send out, too.
“I really want to extend another huge thank you to the people of Nebraska and all of Husker nation for the unbelievable support you guys have given me,” he said. “It’s made a huge difference in my ability to cope with everything we’ve had to deal with in my family as well. So thank you very much, I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.