MTHS hoops coach using publicity of condition to encourage others

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Tom Feraco is living proof that cancer does not discriminate.

At 55 years old, Feraco would appear to be the picture of health. At an age when most men’s bodies have grown at least a little soft and flabby around the edges, the Middle Township High School boys basketball coach is impressively fit and trim, looking to be in a shape similar to that when he was in high school in the mid 1970s, when he won a state cross country championship and scored nearly 1,200 career points in basketball at Wildwood Catholic.

He had been working himself into even better shape this fall, running and lifting weights in anticipation of the long grind of a high school basketball season leading a young and inexperienced team. Feraco could easily pass for five to seven years younger than his actual age.

But then, he got the news.

After going through a series of medical tests, Feraco was diagnosed with prostate cancer in November and will undergo surgery in early January. He said he expects to miss about three or four weeks of the season while he recovers. Longtime assistant coach Rewi Thompson will take over in his absence, just like he did once for a few games more than 15 years ago when Feraco endured a nasty bout with the flu.

After a recent practice, one in which he displayed the kind of energy a head coach 30 years his younger would envy, Feraco said he actually feels great. His daily life hasn’t really changed since he learned of his condition, save for some very anxious moments spent thinking each evening when he attempts to fall asleep.

“I felt like I was on top of the world,” Feraco said, “and then, bang, something like happens.”

At first, Feraco told school administrators at Middle Township that he didn’t want the public to know about his condition. But then he decided to take the opportunity to inform the public. Feraco said he has been told his long-term prognosis post surgery is expected to be good.

“Everyone needs to go get their tests,” Feraco said. “Go get the blood work done. Go get the colonoscopies. And women need to get the mammograms. Those measures help.”

Feraco runs the Joe Canal’s liquor store in Rio Grande. As word of his condition has spread, along with the media coverage that has gone along with it, Feraco has been pleased with the result of the attention.

“People are coming in the store saying they’ve heard about (his condition) and they’re going and getting tested,” he said. “That’s a great thing to hear. If we can get the awareness out and maybe it saves one or two people, then it’s all worth it.”

Because of the success and longevity that have yielded 668 career wins, nine South Jersey titles, three state championships and numerous division and conference titles, people often turn out in droves to watch Feraco coach Middle Township basketball. Many of the longtime fans often try to wedge their way into seats located behind the Panther bench, just so they can see Feraco interact with his assistant coaches, work the officials and instruct and teach his team during timeouts.

Now, Feraco is asking everyone to listen to him more closely than ever.

“Go get checked,” he said, practically barking the comment as an order. “It’s not that hard to do. And it might save your life.”

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