Meadville Tribune

Our Health

December 10, 2013

Jamestown girls basketball team rallies behind coach in successful battle against prostate cancer

MEADVILLE — The first scrimmage of the season was just about over. Mike Seman, then an assistant coach with the Jamestown girls basketball team, couldn’t wait any longer.

“I have to tell the girls,” Seman told Allison Gordon, who was the head coach at the time.

After both teams exchanged handshakes and Gordon had a moment to talk to the players, she turned to Seman.

“They’re all yours,” she said.

Seman took a moment to collect his thoughts.

“Ladies, baseline,” Seman called out.

The girls lined up along the wall just behind the basketball hoop. The gymnasium became eerily quiet.

“I’m not going to make it to the last game of the season,” Seman told the girls. “I won’t be here. I have to go into surgery.”

“The other hip?” Seman recalls one of the players asking.

“No,” Seman answered. “I had to have some tests and a biopsy came back positive for cancer.

“You could have dropped a feather on a stack of marshmallows and it would have sounded like thunder.”

His players had no response.

“I’m sure we were messing around before,” said Kaitlin Liszka, a senior guard for the Lady Muskies this season. “He said it really sassy. You could tell he was upset. I don’t think we really knew what to say or how to feel about it. We were in shock.”

“It crushed every single one of us,” said fellow senior Savanah Miller. “I was heartbroken.”

The long road

Not even a year prior to his diagnosis, Seman was getting into his vehicle following practice one day when he slipped and injured his hip. At the time, Seman didn’t think the injury was anything more than a bruise or pulled muscle.

As time wore on, though, Seman’s injury became increasingly bothersome and he eventually sought the help of a doctor.

“The doctor took my right leg and turned my ankle back and forth,” Seman said. “No problem. Then he took my left leg and did the same thing. My entire body turned. The ball and socket had fused together.”

In February 2012, Seman underwent surgery for a total hip replacement by Dr. John Scullin at Edgewood Surgical Hospital in Transfer. Right there by his side were members of the Jamestown girls basketball team, and a lot of them.

“I remember the girls all came to visit me and the room was packed,” Seman said. “I think it was illegal how many people were in there.”

Seman recovered fully from the operation and in November returned to the gymnasium as the assistant girls basketball coach.

Shortly thereafter, Seman’s family doctor moved out of his private practice and into the hospital. Seman and his wife, Judy, changed family doctors and Seman scheduled a routine physical with his new doctor, Dr. Barbara Merovich in Jamestown. During the checkup, Merovich noticed Seman hadn’t had certain blood work done in quite some time and advised he have some tests run, including the Prostate-Specific Antigen Test, which measures the blood level of the PSA.

“When the results came back, they showed my PSA was elevated,” Seman said. “The doctor said, ‘Let’s wait a month and try again.’ We waited. I went back and had the tests done again. The numbers came back elevated again.”

Seman was referred to a doctor in Pittsburgh for further evaluation and it was recommended that Seman have a biopsy. The morning of that first scrimmage back in December of 2012, Seman made the trip to Pittsburgh to get the results.

The diagnosis? Prostate cancer.

“I remember being rather calm,” he said. “My wife was really upset. But I just thought, ‘What am I going to do?’”

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