St. Dominic Academy track and field coach Dan Campbell works with throwers Gabby Roman, left, and Ethan Berube at the school in Auburn in March 2021. Fifteen months after its diagnosis, Campbell’s cancer is in full remission.  Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

When Dan Campbell was initially diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, his doctors gave him six months to live. 

Nearly a year and a half later, not only is the longtime track and field, cross country and Nordic ski coach still living, he was told last week, on Good Friday, that the Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in his stomach, spleen and chest, as well as the squamous cell carcinoma in his neck and throat are in total remission. 

Campbell said that he doesn’t think receiving the news on Good Friday is a coincidence.

“Basically, the oncologist called me on Friday because I did a PET (positron emission tomography) scan on Wednesday,” Campbell said. “They were going to let me know about the PET scan, because it scans the body for live cancer cells. Friday was Good Friday, the day that led to the resurrection of Christ. He calls me late Friday and says, ‘Dan, are you sitting down?’ And I go, ‘Oh, no. Yeah, I am sitting down.’ He says, ‘I just want to let you know that you are 100 percent in remission of both cancers.’

“I didn’t know how to react. I was numb.”

After months of radiation and chemo, Campbell’s cancer is gone.

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The radiation on his neck gave him third-degree burns on the inside and outside of his neck. He still can’t swallow correctly, and needs medication to help. He has lost 46 pounds and is tired often. He also is in treatment to end his reliance on OxyContin painkillers, which he was given to combat the pain caused by radiation treatments. Campbell has been overcoming drug addiction for more than three decades and is a longtime substance abuse counselor, so he understands the importance of this step.

“If you know anything about me then you know I am a drug addict, but I haven’t had anything in 35 years,” Campbell said. “They gave me OxyContin, and I didn’t hesitate to take it. That became another hell for me. I became addicted to it. I still am on it and I am working in a program to wean myself off it, and they’re helping me. … I had nine chemos in a row with the radiation, and I had major chemo fog. It was scary and extremely painful, and being hooked on OxyContin was my biggest fear from the beginning.”

Campbell said the treatments are going well.

He also will experience another 12 to 18 months of residual effects from the radiation and chemo, but his health is coming back. So he is making big, active plans for the future.

The day after he found out his cancer is in remission, Campbell realized that, finally, he has his life back.

“The next day it hit me: I can live, I can live,” Campbell said. “I have things I can get done. I can see my grandchildren, I can go to school and get my masters in Divinity, help people, get out there and see my friends. A couple of my friends have said, ‘Dan, slow down.’ I said, ‘Slow down? I have slowed down for the last year and a half.’”

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Campbell said he’s been cycling almost everyday throughout his cancer treatments, and on May 21 he is traveling to Miramar, Florida, for the National Senior Games 20K road race. The following day, Campbell will compete in a 40-kilometer race.

Campell said his inspiration to continue training came from the athletes he has coached at Edward Little High School, UMaine-Farmington, and most recently, St. Dominic Academy and Thomas College.

“I qualified for nationals, but I don’t know how I did it; it was by the grace of God,” Campbell said. “I have been training every day, and I am going to do the nationals and I am going to try to kick butt. That’s because of my athletes. They showed me what to do and how to do it. I want to pay my athletes back by going to the nationals.”

Campbell also wants to travel the country and meet up with friends and family. His son, Ian, daughter-in-law, Angela, and grandson, Parker, live in Florida and all play golf. So, Campbell is adding that his his agenda.

“I am active. I cycle, I swim, I can’t run too much now, I hike, and I love that stuff,” Campbell said. “I always said when I finally slow down I am going to learn golf. I said, well, it’s time. My twin (sister) lives on a golf course, and my son does, so I want to learn how to play golf.”

Campbell said that later this year he is planning to spend four days at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina soon to take lessons from professional golfers. 

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After receiving prayers, cards, gifts and more than $74,000 through a GoFundMe page that was set up for him, Campbell now wants to also give back. He’s in the process of starting what he calls a house for sick children. Campbell also wants to reach out to people to visit with them and just say thank you. 

“The biggest thing is I want to visit people,” Campbell said. “They showed so much love to me, and every day I get something. They’re wishing me luck, prayers, giving me presents, cards and so I want to give that back. It might take me a year, six months, but I am going to meet people.”

Campbell said that words of encouragement from people and his faith helped him reach remission.

“My remission — which is a miracle, because I was pronounced dead a year and a half ago, they gave me six months to live at the beginning. What I feel is that this is a miracle,” Campbell said. “It came from Him. When I speak to you, I am excited. It’s their energy, their stuff. I feel it every day. Some days I have tears in my eyes. People can feel the love, and that’s what life is about, the love.”

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