MacLean coping well with cancer

Posted April 10, 2009, at 1:21 a.m.

Each weekday has its routine for Vincent MacLean Jr.

He awakens about 5 a.m., drinks two cups of coffee and then leaves for Bangor, a quiet drive save for dodging deer along Route 9 in Amherst.

He’s back home by 10:30 or so, with time for lunch before heading off to nearby Jonesport-Beals High School, where he’s in his second season as the varsity baseball coach.

MacLean leads his 11 players through preseason practice, then heads home for an evening with his family before the routine begins anew the next day.

The 44-year-old MacLean is in the second week of this schedule, the second of four weeks of road trips to CancerCare of Maine at Eastern Maine Medical Center, where he is undergoing radiation treatment for stage 2 lymphoma.

Coping with cancer is nothing new for MacLean, a guard on Jonesport-Beals’ 1983 state championship team and has been the boys basketball coach at his alma mater for five years.

He also coached basketball at Narraguagus of Harrington from 1997 until 2002, when he stepped down in part to help several family members who were battling the disease.

Those battles produced both heartbreak and hope. An uncle, aunt and grandmother all died within a 118-day span in 2004, but MacLean’s mother has beaten cancer twice.

Now MacLean faces a similar battled, buoyed by his wife Sally, daughters Vanessa, Morgan and Jessica, and other family, neighbors and friends.

He also draws inspiration from fellow coaches and officials who have faced the disease head-on, such as his own high school basketball coach, Ordman Alley, and longtime Katahdin of Stacyville coach Phil Faulkner, now that school’s athletic administrator.

MacLean learned of his own cancer on Feb. 11, the day Jonesport-Beals played at Katahdin of Stacyville in an Eastern D basketball playoff.

MacLean and Faulkner talked before the game, and MacLean was encouraged by the motivational words of a fellow coach.

“He just said to me, ‘I want to tell you that you can beat this,’” said MacLean. “And he said anytime I needed to talk to someone to just call. That meant the world to me.”

The Royals’ season ended that night, but three nights later the team had a breakup pizza party where MacLean told his team of his illness, and added a positive spin.

“I had agreed earlier on that if we made it to the Bangor Auditorium, I’d let them shave my head,” said MacLean. “When we lost to Katahdin we came up one game short, but I said they could cut it anyway because I’d rather they cut it off than have the chemo get it.”

MacLean’s hair is growing back these days, as chemotherapy is not part of his medical regimen. Coaching baseball, however, is proving helpful.

“I coached the team last year and had a ball,” said MacLean. “I didn’t know how tired I was going to be, but I really wanted to coach again this year because I don’t want this disease to hold me back.”

MacLean will lean on assistant coach Buddy Mills this spring, as well as his players.

“One of the doctors told me the best therapy in the world is being around high school kids coaching them, and I really believe it,” MacLean said.

There’s also plenty of support beyond the diamond. The high school boosters will host a benefit dinner for MacLean next Wednesday evening, and former Jonesport-Beals basketball players are planning a tournament to aid the cause.

“The support has been just tremendous,” said MacLean. “They all say to stay positive, laugh a lot, and enjoy living, and that’s what I’m doing.”

eclark@bangordailynews.net

990-8045

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