HARRISBURG - Harrisburg Stampede head coach Bernie Nowotarski has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow.
Nowotarski, who also serves as the team's Director of Football Operations, told CBS 21 News Sports Director Jason Bristol that his cancer is considered "stage 2." Nowotarski received the news on Wednesday and has already undergone his first chemotherapy treatment.
He will coach the Stampede this season, however.
"Part of my life is football and I'm not going to give up the thing that I love doing," said Nowotarski, 52. "The other part is my family; those things are what matter to me and (will) keep me going."
Nowotarski reached out to Bristol first on Friday, saying he wanted to tell his story on his own terms -- and that he doesn't want a "pity party." He hopes to inspire others with his fight -- and draw inspiration from other cancer survivors, as well.
He later sent a letter to his players and coaches; as well as another one to the media.
Since it was detected early enough, the cancer is considered treatable.
He received the diagnosis during a routine doctor's visit. "I was told I have a mass between my right hip and spinal cord," he said. Nowotarski has been bothered by pain in that region for years; he thought it was just the effects of playing football for so many years.
"I was sitting there with my wife, Jill, devastated." he added. "All I could think about was my wife, my children, my friends and that I am not ready to give any of them up."
He will likely undergo two-to-three treatments a week and, at some point, will need a stem cell transfusion.
Nowotarski, who resides in Berks County, is one of the most successful coaches in all of indoor football. During his time with the Reading Express, he tallied a 60-19 record, won four division titles, two conference championships, and a national title; and led the league in attendance every season, according to the Stampede website.
"We will support our coach during this time and we running a cancer awareness game this season in his honor," said Justin Coble, the team's new owner.
The Stampede will open its inaugural season of American Indoor Football (AIF) on Saturday, April 7 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center
"I don't want any season dedicated to me; like 'Let's do this for Coach!'" he said. "I don't want that. All I want for my players to do is go out every week, give everything you got, don't take anybody in your life for granted; and do what's right."