Members of the Greer community helped support Travis Perry and local firefighter Kevin Holtzclaw during the Champions for a Cause event in the summer of 2019. Perry is pictured here with Kevin’s brother, David Holtzclaw.Coach Perry has been around the game of football since the age of 6, earning many wins and accolades along the way.

Perry inspires others with fight against cancer

Billy Cannada's picture
By: 
Billy Cannada

“Battle and win.”

That was Travis Perry’s motto through the toughest year of his life, and it will be his motto moving forward in the fight against Stage 4 Cholangiocarcinoma.

No year was tougher on Travis Perry than 2019.

The decorated Greer High coach and Athletic Director successfully battled and defeated bile duct cancer, and spent the majority of the year recovering from major surgery.

“It’s been the toughest year physically and mentally,” Perry said, comparing it to the year he lost his father.

In December, it got worse. His cancer had recurred.

“It cut my knees out from under me,” Perry said. “I struggled with it hard up until this week. That’s the devil. The enemy knows the way to get me is through fear.”

Anybody who has spent time around Perry knows it’s hard to keep him down for long. Perry said his faith is too strong to allow fear to win.

“I want to be an ambassador for the Lord,” he said. “That’s my prayer every day. I want the light to shine on him and not me, because that’s what all this is about. I look at it like it was a team effort. To beat something like this, it has a lot to do with your attitude, your faith and friends.”

Perry recalled his first fight with the disease and how his relationships pulled him through.

“The things that got me through it and helped me beat this cancer the first time were my faith in God, family, friends, our community and the kids that I work with. When I was sick at practice, the kids would come and sit down beside me, bring me water or just hug me. Even during a game, kids would come over and check on me. Those kind of things have touched my heart.

“The kids are my ministry. That’s my calling,” he said. “I want to stay in God’s will and use what I’m going through to help other people. Instead of this thing using me, I’m going to use it.”

To say football is Perry’s life might be an understatement. He began playing the sport at the age of 6, eventually earning a scholarship to play for Newberry College. Perry then went on to coach at Newberry before coming home to Greer.

“Forty-three years of my life have been spent playing football, so any notoriety that I have came through this sport,” Perry said. “I’m humbled by that. I’m appreciative to the game, and it has provided me with a lot of opportunities.”

Through working at Greer High, Perry has made some lifelong friends that have continued to support him through the years.

“Marion Waters is like a dad to me. Still is. We talk, sometimes daily. He’s been like a father figure to me,” Perry said. “And Mr. Ludley—I just have so much respect for him. Everything he does is professional 100 percent of the time. He treats everybody as a professional, and it’s unbelievable what he’s been able to do for Greer High.”

Perry was blindsided by his diagnosis in 2018.

“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I’ve never had tobacco in my mouth. I’ve never done a drug.”

After years of living what he describes as “a clean life,” the USA Football Master Trainer found himself in the fight of his life.

“Life can change, as I learned, in a matter of a few minutes,” Perry said. “You can be fine today, and then tomorrow learn that you have cancer or go out and be killed in a car wreck. I asked the doctor if this disease was terminal. He said, ‘It is, but life is terminal. Everything we do is terminal. You don’t know when it’s going to be your turn, but life is terminal.’ I just want to help others and make the time meaningful.”

Perry said his problems are no different than what others may be going through.

“Life’s tough,” he said. “We all have problems—not just cancer survivors. You have kids and adults who have lost close loved ones. You’ve got people with alcohol problems and drug addictions. You should never judge anybody because you don’t know, until you walk in their shoes, what they’re dealing with. My goal everyday when I wake up, especially now, is to touch somebody else’s life in a positive way.”

Although the fight will be tough, Perry has hope for his days ahead.

“I’m hoping I can go through this and get it behind me,” he said.

“If you Google this disease, there’s not a lot of good things that come up,” Perry said. “You’re looking at three years. Five years is almost unheard of. That’s the bad that you hear about. What you don’t see is that there are a lot of people living with Cholangiocarcinoma and are managing it. The key is going to be for this chemo to do its job—to hold it at bay and keep it from spreading.”

“Everything I do, I compete. If I’m fishing, I want to catch more fish and bigger fish than anybody I’m fishing with. It’s just the way I’m made. It’s the same way with this cancer. I want to beat it. I want to whip it.”

Perry started chemotherapy on Monday and will continue the sessions in the week ahead. In the meantime, he will be leaning on his friends, family and wife, Jennie.

“My wife has been my rock,” Perry said. “She’s been an unbelievable caregiver and supporter. I’ve been so blessed with her.”

billy@greercitizen.com | 877-2076

"No better words describe Coach Perry than ‘God, Greer, and Greatness.’ He is a pillar of our community and has a far greater reach on this community than can ever be seen. His roles of educator, football coach, and athletic director are always done at a professional and high level. What is more important, though, is the often unseen times where he mentors, cares, and molds young men and women in their younger years into quality and contributing members of this community. His faith and ministry is something that enhances this community. There is no finer man deserving of the 2019 Citizen of the Year, and I am truly grateful and blessed to call him boss, mentor, and friend." - Greg Miller

"Travis is one of my biggest heroes. I have seen him give all he’s got on days when he is feeling like he can’t go on. I am honored to not only call him a friend, but that I get to call him one of my cousins. Coach Perry is a fighter!" - Leigh Gregory

"Travis has been a fixture at Greer High School and in the Greer community for many years. He brought me to Greer in 2004 and introduced my family and I to this wonderful community. His desire to do what is best for Greer is second to none. He truly has a passion for being a Yellow Jacket!" - Will Young

"Travis Perry is an outstanding man and leader that represents Greer High School and the Greer community. He is driven by his love and passion for students and making a positive difference in their lives. The positive impact that Coach Perry has had in this community is immeasurable. Travis Perry makes everyone around him better, and I am honored that I am able to work with him every day." - Justin Ludley

"Not only is he an outstanding coach, but he has been a friend and mentor to me and all of those who have had the opportunity to coach and teach at Greer High School." - Mike Meade

"There is not anyone more deserving to be named the Citizen of the Year in Greer. Travis Perry has been a huge part of Greer and exemplifies the true meaning of a Greer Citizen. Born and raised in Greer, he gives tirelessly to the community and more importantly to the youth in Greer." - Chad Hannon

"Travis Perry could be nominated for Citizen of the Year every year. His impact on young people has been incredibly important to so many. If the team loses he’ll take the blame, but when they win he’ll share the glory. In fact, he’ll make you feel like they couldn’t have done it without you. Through his courageous battle with cancer, he continuously points to and gives thanks to God. Travis Perry is a treasure to our community!" - Rob Gravley

"Travis Perry is an outstanding educator, coach, and Christian gentleman who has distinguished himself and his community in everything that he has done. He is an asset at Greer High School who has given his all to the young people of our community. His influence in the lives of so many is simply incalculable. He is a friend to so many and is held in high esteem by all." - Marion Waters

"Coach Perry was my baseball coach in high school. He was a very influential figure in my life during that time. The impact he had on my life led me to want to become a PE teacher and baseball coach. I learned a lot about baseball from Coach Perry, but more about life. Coach Perry has impacted the lives of many in Greer on and off the field." - Josh Smith

"Coach Perry is someone this community, and especially his players, have looked up to for a long time. His determination, competitiveness, and motivation to students in the classroom or athletes on the football field is unmatched! And now, others are seeing that spilled over into the fight against cancer. Coach Perry has made me a better person by his leadership, motivation, and fight, but the main reason is his walk with Jesus Christ!" - Justin Miller

"I have known Coach Perry for over 20 years. He has always had a love for Greer High and athletics. During our friendship we have many opportunities to intervene and assist youths at risk. His love for the students is always present and often he is the only consistent person in these young men’s lives. It is apparent he enjoys his work and with the support of his family has rarely been absent from football. His faith in Christ has increased over the years. As he starts the second round in the playoffs with cancer, he will continue to be undefeated with ‘God as his quarterback.’" - Marvin Miller

"Coach Perry is the epitome of what it means to be a Greer Yellow Jacket.  I have personally witnessed him serving as a mentor and father figure to many young men over the years, believing in them when many others did not. He embodies and preserves the traditions that make Greer so special, and spends countless hours at the school and Dooley Field. Travis is a fabulous storyteller, has an amazing sense of humor, and loves to play jokes on his co-workers. No matter what he faces he always has a smile on his face and a positive attitude. Travis is deeply rooted in his faith and has provided a wonderful example for all on how to attack and face the hardships that life sometimes brings." - Megan Yount

The Greer Citizen

317 Trade Street Greer, SC 29651

P.O. Box 70 Greer, SC 29652

Phone: 1-864-877-2076

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