WICHITA FALLS, Texas (TNN) - Noel Johnson has been fighting her whole life.
The Midwestern State women's basketball coach had a great playing career at Texas Tech where she won a national championship and four conference titles.
In 11 years as the Mustangs head coach, she has earned two coach of the year honors and three NCAA tournament appearances.
But she has a different fight now, a fight against stage four ovarian cancer and she says all that experience has prepared her for this.
“All those hard practices," Johnson said. "All that adversity, everything that us as a female student athlete (goes through) it has prepared us to do this. It has prepared us to hit these bumps in the road, to be mothers and to be leaders.
"That was my message to my girls, having the grit and determination and the fight and the relentless, it prepares you for this.”
Johnson has stayed true to herself in this battle, and that includes the way she has attacked the cancer as if it was the next opponent on the schedule.
“I felt a lot better knowing the opponent I was going against and its a high-grade carcinoma that has metastasized throughout my body," Midwestern State coach Noel Johnson said. "So knowing the game plan, I felt so much better, I was like ‘Let’s go’.”
And go she has.
Johnson is on her second round of chemo out of six and she is hoping to have surgery at the halfway point.
But she can not and has not done this alone.
“Well I didn’t know how many people knew coach J until I had so many people asking me for shirt and bracelets," former Midwestern State basketball player Anni Scholl said. "I was like ‘Oh my gosh this is a really big deal’.”
“I think it been such an outpouring of love and compassion of what the Wichita Falls community stands for and it just happens to be pretty close to home,” Midwestern State athletic director Kyle Williams said.
This past Thursday, hundreds gathered for a burger benefit that raised $17,608.
In the first two days of the GoFundMe page “Noel’s Cancer Journey” it had raised more than $5,000, today it is over $11,000.
“I have such a support system to where I don’t have a choice of this fight,” Johnson said. “I’m doing it for them, I’m doing it for my family.”
Johnson says the best way to support her is something you don't need money for.
“I think the biggest thing is prayers," Johnson said. "I think that’s the best medicine. Faith is important and not just because you have cancer but because of life and who we are. I think that’s the biggest thing.
"But I’m telling you right now, everybody has been just wonderful.”
Noel Johnson says she hopes her fight against ovarian cancer will bring more awareness, but also wants to see a standardized screening to catch it before the cancer reaches stage four, like hers.
In the meantime we can wear STRONG FOR NOEL bracelets and send prayers for her and her family.
Here is the link for Noel Johnson’s GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/noelwreckscancer