The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local Sports

November 15, 2012

VIDEO | UPJ wrestling coach uses same approach in hospital as on mat



‘Pumped’ for surgery

The surgery was set for Aug. 6 at Pittsburgh’s UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. Before leaving for Pittsburgh, Pecora met with a priest for a blessing, then he headed off to the UPJ wrestling room for some inspiration.

“I went down in the wrestling room, and I just kind of gathered all of the strength from all of the warriors that had ever set foot in the wrestling room,” he recalled. “I said, ‘OK, I’m going to need all of this strength.’ ”

It must have worked. Pecora wasn’t just optimistic about the procedure – he was almost looking forward to it.

“I was kind of pumped up going into the surgery,” he said.

Doctors had hoped that they would only have to remove about 25 percent of Pecora’s lung, but the location of the cancerous mass – which he said was about an inch long – forced them to remove the upper lobe.

The surgery didn’t sideline him for very long.

“I got operated on Monday, was in the hospital on Tuesday, I came home on Wednesday and I came up to work on Thursday,” Pecora said. “I was hurting, but I was functional. I was never down and out.”

The cancer, which doctors told Pecora was slow-moving, did not spread, and he’s seen few side effects.

“My strength’s good,” he said. “I’m working out every day. I did everything almost from the get-go. But definitely, your lung capacity is not the same. I can feel it when I walk up to lunch, especially if I’m talking and walking.”

Team behind him

Pecora had plenty of support in his recovery.

“The kids on the team now, the alumni, everybody was behind him, jumping on board, giving him confidence, helping him out any way, shape or form,” Fogle said.

Pecora said his support group reached far from the Richland Township campus.

“Not only just the Pitt-Johnstown family (supported me),” he said. “I heard from everybody, the whole wrestling community, which is always a tight community. It’s just different. The wrestling community, the Johnstown community. I can’t thank everyone enough for the cards, the letters.”

Pecora was initially reluctant to talk about his ordeal, because “others have been through so much more.”

“Mine was nothing,” he said. “What’s a lung?”

In the end, Pecora says, it wasn’t his toughness that saved him, but the fact that the cancer was found quickly.

“It’s not anything I did special,” he said. “When people say you beat cancer - I don’t know if that’s true. You either got blessed or you didn’t. I don’t think it’s anything up to the individual. The only thing you can do is stay in a good frame of mind, obviously, and go into each battle ready to go. I don’t know if you really have any control over the destiny.”


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