Giving Back Never Giving Up

By CLARENCE E. HILL JR.

Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Originally posted in 2008

SPECIAL THANKS TO THE S-T/MIKE FUENTES

Elijah Alexander was diagnosed with multiple myeloma two years ago, but the cancer is now in remission.

MCKINNEY — Watching a strong and vibrant Elijah Alexander walk around the TPC golf course at Craig’s Ranch on Tuesday, there was little hint of the near tragedy upon which the day’s activities were founded.

Alexander was rushed to Plano Presbyterian hospital two years ago. He was dehydrated, and his kidneys were shutting down.

Alexander, a former Fort Worth Dunbar star, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma — a rare cancer of the bone marrow.

Alexander, a 235-pound linebacker for 10 years in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis and Oakland Raiders, had to undergo chemotherapy and a bone marrow transfusion.

At his lowest point, Alexander was a frail 178 pounder who couldn’t shower himself or sit up to eat.

Kimberly, his wife of 12 years, remembers the days she had to put towels on the floor so he could crawl to bed.

And then there was the very real possibility of him not even making it because of possible organ failure.

“He is a trooper,” Kimberly said. “Looking at him now you wouldn’t really know what he went through from September 2005 to March of 2006. It was tough.

“He was broken down. And we didn’t realize how close we came to losing him.”

Today, Alexander’s cancer is in remission. His levels are almost undetectable, thanks to maintenance drugs.

While his body and immune system are still not NFL strong, he does have the wisdom to know he is blessed and the strength to give back.

With the help of parents from his pee wee football team, Alexander and his wife created the Tackle Myeloma Foundation, benefiting multiple myeloma research and Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas.

“I was still coaching my son’s football team when I got ill,” said Alexander, 37.

“When I got done after the bone marrow transplant, a lot of the parents said, ‘Let’s give back. Let’s do something to raise money since there is no cure.’”

Alexander took a step further. He saw the impact cancer had on his family and the other families while he was in the hospital — many who did not the have the resources an NFL background can provide.

Said Kimberly: “I think it’s more of matter of us realizing how blessed we are and turning it around and trying to be a blessing. It was literally while Elijah was laying in his hospital bed that he said he wanted to raise money for research and children affected by cancer.”

Roughly 140 participants gathered at the TPC at Craig’s Ranch for the second annual TMF golf tournament and fundraiser. Among the attendees were running back Marion Barber, receiver Patrick Crayton and safety Keith Davis of the Cowboys, former NFL stars Russell Maryland, Tim Brown, Kevin Mathis, Ray Crockett, Larry Centers and Billy Joe Tolliver, and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk and Trevor Daley of the Dallas Stars.

“I couldn’t fathom seeing him at 178 pounds,” said former Steelers offensive lineman Barrett Brooks, who played with Alexander at Kansas State. “It’s an unbelievable difference where he was then and where he is now. But he always was a fighter. And what he is doing with the golf tournament to try to help others with cancer is a beautiful thing.”

 

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