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In 1991, senior tackle Tony Caison helped lead the West Brunswick Trojans to a state runner-up football season.
Today, Caison, 37, is a loving father of two boys, a doting husband to his wife Shannon and a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan. He’s traded in his No. 70 Trojan jersey for a detective’s badge, having worked for the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office for the past 13 years.
Caison’s most recent challenge is to add “cancer survivor” to his resume.
With the support of his family, friends, church family at Mount Olive Baptist Church and co-workers at the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, Caison is confident he can beat cancer.
Caison has a pancreatic-type cancer of the ampulla that runs from his pancreas to bile ducts. The cancer’s not very well organized, Caison said, comparing it to an unorganized hurricane.
This past Saturday, Tony and Shannon Caison headed west for Houston, Texas, where he is set to receive chemotherapy at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
On Tuesday, Caison was scheduled to receive his first round of chemotherapy. His doctors at the M.D. Cancer Center anticipate he will receive chemotherapy for about two months.
After chemotherapy, Caison will undergo a Whipple surgery. Shannon Caison found a doctor at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia who is renowned for the Whipple procedure, and the doctor also has a home at Holden Beach, where Caison was born and raised.
But even with all the cutting edge treatments, award-winning hospitals and state-of-the-art surgeries, there’s one thing Caison cherishes more than anything else—his faith.
“My faith is very important to me. The doctors can do the procedures; but God does the healing. If it wasn’t for him, the doctors wouldn’t be skilled in the procedures. It’s up to God at this point. I pray and I pray,” Caison said.
Caison admits it will be difficult in Texas the next few months without seeing his sons, Michael and Anthony, every day, but he knows it’s for the best.
Prayer works, Caison said, adding he and his wife recently received an email with very promising news: the cancer has not spread.
“I give everything to God. I give him all the credit. My faith has always been strong, but this cancer has made me realize how strong it can be,” Caison said.
Those who know Caison are also confident he will beat his illness.
Detective Ed Carter has known Caison for the past 14 years. They previously worked together as partners.
“Tony’s a big fellow and can be intimidating,” Carter said, referring to his friend’s 6-foot-3-inch frame. “He always has his heart in the right place. He’s got a very outgoing personality, contrary to popular belief.”
When they worked together as partners, Carter said they shared an unspoken bond that whatever one of them needed, the other one got.
“There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for Tony,” Carter said. “He could ask me to move a mountain and it would be moved tomorrow. That’s just the relationship he and I have.”
Carter said the sheriff’s office crew has rallied around Caison.
“We’re a tight-knit bunch of folks to start with. We may cuss and disagree among us, but we help each other stand up and move forward. I’ve been with the sheriff’s department for 15 years, and that’s the way it’s been ever since I’ve been here,” Carter said.
“I think he’ll be just fine. He’s been very proactive. It sounds like in talking to him that they’ve caught the cancer so they can effectively treat it. My hopes and prayers are for a very quick and uneventful recovery for him,” Carter said.
Benefit, raffles and T-shirts
A benefit for Caison, “Friends don’t let friends fight cancer alone,” is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 21, at West Brunswick High School in Shallotte.
The benefit includes a raffle drawing for a 42-inch TV, a gas grill, a .22 rifle and many other prizes. The drawing will be at 5 p.m.
Throughout the day there will be kids’ activities, a bake sale, popcorn, barbecue plates, a CrossFit Ocean Isle Beach strong man competition, a corn-hole tournament and live music by Running with Scissors and Meteor Men.
Raffle tickets for a Mossberg 500 home defense shotgun are for sale for $5 per ticket or five tickets for $20 between 8 a.m. March 28 and noon June 4 at W.T. Cox Subscriptions in Shallotte. The drawing will be June 4 at the office.
T-shirts and Koozies with “Friends don’t let friends fight cancer alone” are also for sale.
To purchase T-shirts or Koozies, contact Susan Gurganus at 616-8030, or Joe Cherry at 622-4384.
For a $10 donation, you can get a purple hair extension at Good Looks Beauty Salon in Calabash.
The Anthony Caison Cancer Fund has been set up at the Ocean Isle Beach branch of First Bank.
For more information about the benefit, contact Mike Murray at 880-4942, April Gause at 880-4929 or Kyle Jones at 880-4944.
Caroline Curran is a staff writer at The Brunswick Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.