Fourteen months ago, Danville resident Todd French was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer.
"I've never smoked a day in my life," he said. "The first thing I thought was how did this happen? I'm an optimist, but that week was upside down."
These days, however, he says he barely thinks about it, despite what he is about to say.
"This disease is one of the more deadly cancers out there," he said. "The doctors said the average life span is ten months.
But, he proudly states, "I'm going on 13, 14 months. I'm working full time, coaching full time."
French is head of sales for a software company. He's the football coach for the San Ramon Valley Thunderbirds, a youth football program for 7-11 year olds. He's the junior varsity football coach at . Oh, and he also coaches lacrosse for a local youth program.
He's married to Michelle, his high school sweetheart and he has two children: Austin, 14, a San Ramon Valley High School freshman; and Cole, 11.
French will be the focus of a fundraiser tonight at .
The fundraiser is to help French and his family raise money for medical costs, mainly the $10,000 a month drug he is on that has, as French said, helped him lead a rather normal life these days. This is on top of the chemotherapy French received that cost the family $200,000, he added.
The drug, recently approved by the FDA, is called Xalkori. The drug targets a specific gene that only one to seven percent of non-small cells lung cancer patients have. French says the drug is working for him.
"It's not taking the cancer away but it's pushing it back far enough to lead a normal life," he said.
The fundraiser, organized by Bill Blackburn (whose son is coached by French), is from 5 p.m. to 11 pm. at Primo's.
"He's a giver, he's the biggest giver I know and now it's time to give back to him," Blackburn said. "We're organizing this to raise money for his extremely expensive treatments. They're tapping him out."
The fundraiser is $25 per person, which includes a pasta dinner. It will also hold an auction done by local auctioneer Steve Hayworth.
"We have golf strips to St. Andrews, trips to Disneyworld, a father and son day at a Cal scrimmage game," he said. "We've got a lot of stuff to auction off."
There will also be year memberships to 24-Hour Fitness and , gift baskets from , and a Pabst Blue Ribbon mini-fridge, among many, many other items.
"Everyone has been so generous," Blackburn said.
French said that almost immediately after his diagnoses, the community jumped in to help the family raise funds. A website was built, called GoTeamFrench.com, to raise funds and at each of the football and lacrosse games French was affiliated with, fundraisers were organized. About $25,000 has been raised so far, he said.
"We're so blessed to live in this community," he said.
French is post diagnoses. He said he doesn't know what the future holds but that's no worry.
"I don't sweat the small stuff anymore. It rolls off my back like water on a duck's back," he said. "I'm just enjoying the heck out of the time I've got left. Every little bit of time I've got with my family and friends."
You can head down to Primo's today to pick up your ticket for the fundraiser.
Tickets are $25 and the event starts at 5 p.m.
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