GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A rigorous chemotherapy schedule to battle Burkitt’s lymphoma will likely keep Glenwood Springs High School Athletic Director Craig Denney from returning to work until mid-February, an official at the high school said on Thursday.
Assistant Principal Gayla Rowe, the school’s acting athletic director in Denney’s absence, said the daily treatment for the allotted time frame is necessary to ensure the cancer will go into remission. She also reiterated that a limited number of people are allowed to visit Denney while he undergoes treatment.
“He’s very optimistic right now,” Rowe said of Denney, who is in his sixth year as the school’s athletic director. “He’s going to beat this. That’s what he keeps telling people. He keeps saying ‘I’m going to beat this.’”
Multiple members of the community have reached out to put together fundraising efforts to help pay for medical expenses, and social media sites have been established to either send words of encouragement or to help with medical costs. Through Thursday, the Facebook page Craig Denney Benefit had attracted more than 1,100 followers since the page went up on Nov. 30. Also, a page at www.caringbridge.org has been set up as a way to send messages to the Denney family.
“I miss everybody and can’t wait to see them all when I’m feeling better,” Denney said via text message on Thursday. “Thank you for all of the support, meals, notes and prayers.”
The cancer Denney is receiving treatment for, Burkitt’s lymphoma, has a high cure rate but, according to Rowe, “the chemo regiment is very rough.”
Denney’s diagnosis came in the second week of November, and he has been in and out of Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs for treatments ever since.
Burkitt’s lymphoma, according to the site www.burkitts.org, is a rare form of cancer with only 300 cases appearing annually in the United States. It “is one type of a group of malignant diseases know as the non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas (NHL). These lymphomas are very similar to the leukemias. The type of malignant cell present is called a B-cell and Burkitt’s is often referred to as a B-cell lymphoma or leukemia.”
Rowe said the cancer is located in Denney’s abdomen area, but doctors have been treating his entire body to prevent the cancer from spreading.
Denney has served as the athletic director at GSHS for the past six years, taking over for Steve Cable. Prior to that, he spent eight seasons as the Demons’ football coach, stepping into Tim Harp’s position right before the first game of the 1996 season. He stepped down in 2003 to spend more time with family, giving way to current Demons’ head football coach Rocky Whitworth.
The football program played a junior varsity schedule in 1997, as Denney, Cable and former longtime football coach Don Miller decided not to play a varsity schedule due to safety concerns for the players since most of them were underclassmen. He helped resurrect the program following that season, keeping it at a high level of respectability until he stepped down.
Among the fundraisers that have been organized is tonight’s basketball games between the Demons’ boys and girls teams and Coal Ridge, in which admission costs will be donated to the Denney family to help pay medical bills. Two other supporters, Melissa Miller and Bob Johnson, have also organized a spaghetti dinner and silent auction to mirror the beginning of the Demon Invitational basketball tournament on Dec. 13. All proceeds will be given to the Denney family.
“When we heard about his diagnosis, we knew we had to get involved,” Miller and Johnson said in a press release. “He has given so much to this community, [and] we wanted to provide an outlet for everyone to give back.”