Caledonia's Westland helps Warriors, Warriors help Westland

Published On: Feb 03 2013 10:14:54 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 04 2013 02:44:47 AM CST
Jimmy Westland
CALEDONIA, Minn. -

An assistant coach for more than 17 years, Jimmy Westland is finally getting his shot. It's his first season as head coach of the Caledonia girls basketball team.

"The one thing that's different is all the other stuff you have to do outside of coaching. Fundraising, the kind of stuff behind the scenes that people don't see," Westland said.

After a long winning streak, the Warriors are on a bit of a cold streak. Caledonia started the season 11-0, but went just 3-9 in January.

Adversity, however, is nothing new for Westland.

In 1996, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He was given a 30 percent chance of survival and began treatment three days later.

"It was really aggressive, so the doctor said we need to be aggressive back. That's how you treat an aggressive cancer."

After undergoing chemotherapy, the cancer grew back a year later. Westland had a bone marrow transplant.

"They came as close to killing me as they could without actually killing me," he said. "To me at least, it was a lot easier being the person that had it than if it was my wife or my family member. I knew I was going to be OK, but I was worried about them."

This time, Westland made an amazing recovery. Just 14 months later, he ran the Columbus Ohio marathon.

"It was great, especially when we got to the finish line. It was a great feeling to just, it was like the signature moment of, we beat this."

Healthy now for the last 15 and a half years, Westland tries to pass the lessons he's learned on to his team.

"I'm able to tell the girls that basketball is like a marathon. You're going to go through hard times and easy times, and you just gotta keep fighting no matter what."

And as much as he's helped his team through a difficult month, that's nothing compared to how much his teams have helped him over the years.

"Just being able to work with people and coaching are why I'm alive I think."