2012-10-12 / Front Page

GHS coach knows the heartbreak of losing loved one to breast cancer

By LARRY hILLIARD Ledger Staff Writer larry@gaffneyledger.com


Fifteen gallons of pink paint was used by the Gaffney high paint crew to decorate the school logo and yard markers as part of a breast cancer awareness event for Friday’s home game against Byrnes. 
(Ledger photo / SCOTT POWELL) Fifteen gallons of pink paint was used by the Gaffney high paint crew to decorate the school logo and yard markers as part of a breast cancer awareness event for Friday’s home game against Byrnes. (Ledger photo / SCOTT POWELL) Like her only child, Donnie, Elnora Montgomery Littlejohn loved football.

Especially the Gaffney High Indians.

“She never missed a game of mine,” said Donnie, a former star offensive lineman at Gaffney and Furman University and now the Indians’ offensive coordinator.

After accompanying him to his freshman orientation at Furman, his mother rushed home to attend a Gaffney game, Donnie recalled.

“I guess she got her love for football because she was part of the band at Granard and how good Granard was,” he said. “She just loved football.”

She never missed one of her son’s games either as a player or coach until last year when she was battling breast cancer.


ELnORA LITTLEjOhn ...Mother of GHS offensive coordinator Donnie Littlejohn ELnORA LITTLEjOhn ...Mother of GHS offensive coordinator Donnie Littlejohn Elnora was first diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in 2009. Doctors gave Elnora an optimistic prognosis at that time.

“They told her they got it all,” Donnie said.

In June 2011, however, Elnora experienced shortness of breath. Doctors performed an MRI and discovered fluid in her lungs. During surgery, the doctors found her cancer had come back with a vengeance.

When you’re dying of cancer, doctors still put you through the rigors of chemo.

Elnora had six chemo sessions. Those sessions often left Elnora tired, nauseated and feeling ill.

“The (chemotherapy) not only kills the cancer but it kills your body,” Donnie said. “It’s awful.”

The treatments coincided with one of the most successful seasons ever for the Indians, who vaulted into the national polls.

Although she was too sick to attend the games, a group of her family and friends would join her to listen to the games on radio or watch those being televised. The gettogethers turned into parties, taking Elnora’s mind off her life-and-death battle.

“Last season was special,” Donnie said. “It was a unique deal trying to accomplish something special and dealing with my mother’s cancer.”

Littlejohn said the last thing he would do before taking the field before each game was talk to his mother.

“She was my No. 1 fan,” Donnie said. “I was the only child, so there is a special bond between the mother and the son. She was one of those people who when I had a rough day she would calm my nerves. I hear her now telling me to be strong and to keep my head up.”

Donnie knew that breast cancer would take his mother’s life.

She passed away, ironically, this past Mother’s Day at the age of 59.

Donnie believes it was a blessing that she passed on the day so special to mothers and their sons.

“She knew that I would always hate Mother’s Day now and she didn’t want me to hate two days (Mothers Day and the day that she passed away),” Donnie said.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. When Elnora’s beloved Indians host nationally ranked Byrnes today at The Reservation, the dominant color won’t be black and Vegas Gold, but pink in recognition of breast cancer awareness.

Donnie will be among the many donning pink gear in remembrance of his mother and other women battling the disease.

“I was one of those people who wouldn’t wear pink,” Donnie said. “But now I proudly wear pink. It means more to me now and I encourage everybody to wear pink and to make a big deal of it. When you have been around anybody battling cancer, they have incredible strength.”

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