Payback is a blessing for ailing Kingman man
Kingman rallies behind John Bathauer in his fight against deadly melanoma
If you've ever been associated with youth leagues in Kingman, then the chances are pretty good that you've run across John Bathauer at some point.
Bathauer is well known for his commitment to Kingman Little League North, serving as a board member, president and coach, including coaching the 10-11 North All Star team to a District 9 championship this past summer. His commitment to the kids of Kingman goes far beyond the Little League fields, stretching to the pools of the Kingman Dolphins swim club and the gridirons of the Kingman Youth Football League.
So when news broke in January that Bathauer was diagnosed with cancer and the outlook wasn't good, the community that Bathauer gave so much to started giving back.
"You can't find a more quality guy. He's been great for this community and he's been great for the kids," said John Venenga, who has worked closely with Bathauer on various community projects, including Little League. "You get what you put in and John and (John's wife) Anne have put a ton into this community and they are really finding out what they are worth in town, which is great."
Part of the community support has come in the form of various fundraisers that have popped up across town, including ones at Kingman Academy Middle School and the firefighters association, which is putting on a golf tournament next weekend at Cerbat Cliffs Golf Course. There also have been the simple gesture of the Bathauers' dinner that is provided every night by the staff members of Manzanita Elementary and Kingman High schools.
"For both of us, it's just been amazing," Anne Bathauer said. "We could never thank the community for what they have done and what they continue to do. Words can't express how thankful we are to all the people in the community."
John Bathauer was originally diagnosed with stage 2 melanoma skin cancer in 2009 after getting a mole removed at the Mayo Clinic. According to Anne Bathauer, doctors think that might have first appeared when John was 10 years old. After the removal, doctors said they had gotten everything and he was in the clear.
"Melanoma is one of four cancers that has no cure," Anne said. "If you were diagnosed with melanoma, you should be checked often. John followed the advice with the Mayo Clinic and saw a dermatologist every six months and it came back."
The cancer returned with no warning on Jan. 12, when John was rushed to Kingman Regional Medical Center. Doctors determined that he had a brain bleed, and Bathauer was flown to Las Vegas.
"At that point it looked grim and then he came through the surgery perfectly. They had no idea what caused it," Anne said. "That's when they went and searched for it and found the cancer."
What doctors found was the melanoma was back and spreading quickly to different organs. At that time the family was advised to start making arrangements for hospice care as the long-term outlook wasn't good.
But instead of looking into hospice, they decided to seek a second opinion. Kingman Cancer Center helped put the Bathauers in touch with a melanoma specialist in Las Vegas. John was soon on a new medication that wasn't available five years ago.
"Every day there is new research being done on melanoma," Anne said. "We went to a melanoma specialist in Las Vegas and he's given us great hope. There are many, many more things to help metastasis melanoma. Five years ago this would have been a different story."
According to the American Cancer Society, there will be an estimated 76,000 new cases of melanoma diagnosed this year - 44,000 occurring in men and 32,000 in women. Out of those cases, 9,000 are not expected to survive.
"Going to this melanoma specialist has made a huge difference, and being able to get him on this drug, it's amazing," Anne said. "People who saw him a week ago can't believe the difference, so we just continue to hope, to be on this positive route. He's doing 100 percent better from where he was, so that is what we go on. His motto is one day at a time."
John's condition has improved so much that Anne will be returning to her job as guidance counselor at Kingman High when students return from spring break on March 19. But while she returns to work, she won't be resuming her duties at head track coach anytime soon. KHS football coach Rob York will continue filling in for her.
"I'm so thankful to Robbie for stepping up because he's busy with football," Anne said. "Track is a huge commitment because you are working with so many different athletes and he has a lot on his plate. I'm going to be there to help him and advise him and give him so much support.
"I'm hoping that next year I can get back to the business of being head coach, but family comes first when something like this happens. This is the last thing that we expected because he was such a healthy person."
As John's condition continues to improve, he is starting to set goals for himself and his family. One of those goals is the ultimate payback to a community that has given him and his family so much love and support over the last couple of months.
"He says he's going to thank them by beating this," said Anne in a phone interview with John listening in. "That's what he is doing. Every day he gets stronger and better.
"He will be back on the baseball field by (Little League) All Stars."
It's that fighting spirit in John that has friends and colleagues who have worked with him in various sports leagues hopeful that he will return to helping the youth of Kingman.
"He's definitely a fighter and he's prepared to fight this to the fullest," Kingman Krush coordinator Bill McCord said. "Talking to him last week, he's prepared, and I know Anne is very optimistic. I've heard a lot of good things and I hope this medication will help. I know he's a fighter and I know he is not giving up."
Bathauer got involved with the Kingman Krush when sons Mike and Matt started playing at age 9 and has coached the same group of kids since. In fact, according to McCord, Bathauer was at baseball practice the day of his brain bleed.
"It was pretty shocking," said McCord, who lost his father to cancer a couple of years ago.
While the diagnosis was shocking to those close to John, the idea that he was at the baseball field a few hours earlier isn't that much of a shock to those close to him.
"That guy is never home - he lives for his family," McCord said. "If they aren't playing ball that weekend, they are out swimming."
One such example occurred this past summer when his boys were playing at the state 10-11 Little League All Star tournament in Yuma, the same time as the state swim meet for the Dolphins, which his boys and his daughter Alexis had qualified for. As always, they found a way to make it work.
"His biggest impact to the community is his dedication to kids," Venenga said. "Between youth football and Little League and the Dolphin swim team, he's committed not just to his own kids but the kids of Kingman.
"That's the lasting impression that will always be there. I feel lucky to know him the way I have and to be able to work with him the way I have. I know my life is better to have known him and to have worked with him."