Lady Tigers prepare for annual SOFC game honoring Lightsey 4/8/2014

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Coach Lightsey

Lady Tigers prepare for annual SOFC game honoring Lightsey

By Angie Ledbetter
The 6th Annual Strike Out For Cancer (SOFC) game on April 14 will honor a legend from this community, Coach Robert Lightsey.

When this community thinks of Lightsey, they think of a great man that has coached every sport while giving his heart and soul to generations for 35 years. Of those years he spent four at the North Panola School District and the rest at the South Panola Schools.

Lightsey coached for four years at North Panola high school with football, girls’ basketball, baseball, and taught physical science. The following two years he was at Batesville Middle school where he coached fourth and fifth grade PE classes.

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Then he coached seventh, eighth and ninth grade football and assisted with high school football some years. He also coached sevemth, eighth and ninth grade girls and boys basketball at Batesville Jr. High and coached high school baseball and also tennis.

Lightsey coached all the PE classes in the junior high daily. He and coach Pete Robertson did all of football, PE classes and basketball by themselves. Lightsey coached baseball himself and Robertson coached track.

Lightsey was diagnosed on Friday, May 24, 2013 with B-cell ALL = B-cell acute lymphocytic or lymphoblastic leukemia which is very resistant in adults. He was diagnosed using bone marrow in Memphis and has been through every several tests and surgeries.

On February 12, Lightsey had a stem cell transplant at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville, where he will stay 100 days before coming home.

He has had some very rough days but is a very strong fighter, according to wife Carol Anne Lightsey who has been by his side since day one of his journey. 

“He has a lot of people praying for him daily,” she said.

“Coach Kristy Wilson called our daughter Sandra Lynn who then told us,” said Carol Anne. “She said the team had met to discuss who they wanted to honor this year and Robert was picked.”

At Lightsey’s request the donation is to be given to “Be the Match” which is the backbone of the National Marrow Donor Program. Robert had four brothers and none of them matched as a stem cell donor for him. Therefore, they had to search the national registry for possible donors.

Donors for some patients may also be from other countries. If this registry did not exist for Robert and for so many other people there would have been no hope of a cure. Lightsey’s cancer and most blood can’t be cured with chemotherapy alone so a bone marrow/stem cell transplant is required.

The “Be the Match” organization will have an area set up at the SOFC game to sign up people for the national marrow donor registry. Signing up involves swabbing the inside of one’s mouth with a q-tip like swab. So not only will this game help to raise funds for “Be the Match” to operate but also will be an opportunity for people in the community to join the national registry and give someone else a chance to live.

Carol Anne said “We’ve felt overwhelmed, thankful and filled with a peace that can only come from the fact that others are praying for you even when Robert himself has been too sick to do so himself. It’s not just Robert and I that have been thought of and remembered, but also our children and their families have been unbelievably supported and cared for on a daily basis.”        
Lightsey would like to tell the players to do exactly what Coach Ashleigh Hicks and Coach Wilson have taught them to do.

“Do your best and don’t leave anything on the field,” he said. “It’s a great cause. Because of what this game is supporting, I will have a chance of a cure for my leukemia.”

Each day a group of people from the community or other places posts a picture on Facebook with the day number wishing him good luck and telling him they’re praying for him.

The Lightseys have two children, Brad Lightsey and Sandra Lynn Lightsey Bright, and five grandchildren.

South Panola will play Grenada at home at 5 and 6 p.m.

T-shirts for the event are $15 and have to be ordered in advance by contacting 609-3233.