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Topeka West coach Rick Bloomquist battles cancer

Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 11:06 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Coach Rick Bloomquist is home. On the basketball floor. With his family.

“We are really a family,” Topeka West coach Rick Bloomquist said. “This team here is a special family.”

The ole ball coach has needed their support after some unexpected bad news.

“There was a point where I was, I was preparing for the worst.” Bloomquist said.

Back in late October, Coach Bloomquist knew something was wrong.

“I started getting this soreness in my throat,” Bloomquist said. “Started to feel like it was a sore throat. And obviously I was a little concerned because of COVID. I didn’t want that.”

As the months passed by, the possible explanations dwindled but the pain didn’t go away.

“I probably let it go along too long, but that’s kind of my makeup is I can fix it myself,” Bloomquist said. “It got to the point that when doctors said I had something different that I don’t need to see a dentist or a doctor that it’s something that needs to be looked at professionally as something serious.”

In Late January, he finally got an answer.

“When I went to the throat doctor, I said, just, just tell me straight up, what do you think,” Bloomquist said. “The last thing on my mind is I had cancer.”

Doctors diagnosed Coach Bloomquist with Stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma. A form of cancer attacking his lymph nodes.

“Thoughts started going through my mind right then about what am I going to do if it’s this bad or this bad?” Bloomquist said.

Once he learned the diagnosis, he kept the information secret from his players.

“I was very discreet about it,” Bloomquist said. “I want to win with me, not because of me. And I didn’t want any of this hoopla to go to be a distraction. I didn’t think that was fair to the kids.”

He continued to coach through the pain. After clinching the Centennial League title, it was time to tell the rest of his family.

“We had a little rah rah speech about winning the title,” Bloomquist said. “Everybody’s excited and all this. And then I told him, I said, we have to talk. We’re a true family. I had them in here and it was hard. I don’t think it’s going to be that hard for me. I’m going to talk about it and it’s going to be hard for me now. It was hard to talk about it because I didn’t want to let them down. I still don’t.”

An almost overwhelming amount of love came from Coach Bloomquist’s extended family.

“I’ve heard some from people that I’ve taught 40 years ago say we’re still a family coach,” Bloomquist said. “If anyone can beat it you can.”

Cancer is the next opponent on the schedule. It’s one Coach Bloomquist is determined to beat.

“I won’t allow the word quit in my office. I mean, I just won’t allow that,” Bloomquist said. “This is what I want my kids to understand. It’s not about being sick. It’s about an obstacle that you have to overcome and you have to work and do your best. And if you lose, you did your best. But, we don’t want to lose.”

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