For others, the name brings back memories of Auburn University’s 1957 national championship team, of which he was a member. And yet to others, the name brings to mind words like coach, golfer, dedicated Christian and friend.
In recent years, however, when Harvey Copeland’s name is mentioned, people who know him well think of terms like courage, toughness and perseverance. The 75-year-old former Carrollton Trojan star continues to fight a battle against cancer that began 30 years ago, a struggle that has ravaged various parts of his body and has totaled more than $2 million in medical expenses.
“Most everyone who knows Harvey knows that he has been fighting cancer and other health issues for many, many years,” said Buck Swindle of Carrollton, who along with son, Jason, leads the Pathfinders Men’s Ministry, an organization of which Copeland is a charter member.
“It has taken a toll on him, both physically and financially,” Swindle said. “But yet, he keeps on fighting.”
As a means to support Copeland with his medical bills, members of the local Christian men’s ministry, Pathfinders, are sponsoring the Harvey Copeland Invitational Golf Tournament on Monday, April 22, at Oak Mountain Championship Golf Club in Carrollton.
“Harvey is an inspiration to all who know him and know of his incredible story of courage and perseverance,” said Johnny Daniell, a longtime friend of Copeland who originated the idea of the golf tournament.
“I run into people every day who ask about Harvey and want to know how they can help,” Daniell said. “Supporting this golf tournament, whether they sign up to play or just make a donation, is way that they can be of assistance.”
Since he contracted renal cell carcinoma and had a kidney removed in 1983, Copeland has fought cancer, but he has refused to buckle to the disease that has attacked many parts of his body. He has endured hundreds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments during the past three decades and has been in and out of 10 remissions with the longest gap being 18 years before lymphoma was discovered in 2001. Four years later, in 2005, he added myeloma to a list of medical issues that also included a heart attack and cervical spine surgery.
For the past 14 months Copeland has suffered with a severe wound that was caused by the cumulative effects of scores of radiation treatments on his lower right leg that began in March 2009 and continued periodically through early 2010. At one point this past fall, a date was set to amputate his leg. Although the wound has slowly begun to heal because of continuing procedures and treatments, the possibility of infection and amputation remain.
Dr. Perry Ballard, an oncologist since 1987 at Piedmont Hospital who has treated thousands of cancer patients during his 32 years in medicine, candidly says that Copeland is, “without a doubt, the most courageous, most persevering patient that I have ever had. I know that he is an inspiration to a lot of people. But I tell you, Harvey Copeland is an inspiration to me.
“I don’t know where he gets his toughness and will to live from — maybe it’s from his football playing days — but I have never had another patient like him,” Ballard said. “Everyone on my staff loves him. To have been through what Harvey has been through and is continuing to go through and still have his sense of humor, faith and hope, well, he is something else.”
Dr. Randy Pierce, a Carrollton oncologist who first came to know Copeland through the Pathfinders Ministry and professionally during the last couple of years, agrees with Ballard.
“Harvey is an amazing person with an indomitable spirit. There is no quit in him,” said Pierce. “He just takes things as they come head on and plows into them like the running back he was.”
Pierce said that he recently pulled up Copeland’s entire medical history and was shocked.
“I knew he had been dealing with cancer for a long time, but as far as my treatment, we have been focusing on keeping the most recent occurrence at bay,” said Pierce, “but when I looked over his entire chart, well, it’s just amazing. He is like a cat with nine lives, but he doesn’t know that he should have been on his ninth life a long time ago.”
Born and reared in Carrollton, Copeland is a 1956 graduate of Carrollton High School, where he starred in football, track and baseball. He was named “Georgia Back of the Year,” Parade All-American, All-Southern and All-State in football and was one of the top sprinters in the state on CHS’s first state championship track team. In 1975, he was named to the inaugural induction class of the Carrollton Trojan Sports Hall of Fame.
Becoming the first Trojan to receive a scholarship to a Southeastern Conference school, Copeland went to Auburn University, where he was a member of the Tigers’ 1957 national championship team.
Following graduation from Auburn, Copeland served as head football coach at Bowdon High School during the 1963 and 1964 seasons. After a three-year stint at Rossville High as offensive coordinator, he was head coach at Douglas County High for two seasons in 1968 and 1969. Concluding his coaching career as an assistant at West Rome High, he entered the business world.
In 1999, after undergoing a kidney transplant, Copeland began competing in the National and World Transplant Olympic Games at the age of 62, winning four gold, two silver and one bronze medal in the 100, 400, 800 and 1,500-meter runs. In 2001, while on a return flight from Japan after competing in the World Transplant Games, he became ill and after landing in Atlanta went straight to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., where he was diagnosed with large B-cell lymphoma.
One of the original members of the Pathfinders Men’s Ministry, Copeland served on the Carrollton Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department board for many years and continues to be an active member of the Carrollton First United Methodist Church.
“I may end up losing my leg, but it is not going to be without a fight,” Copeland said recently at his Carrollton apartment.
“But I have to admit that the past year has been the toughest stretch of all these years of dealing with cancer,” he said. “And ironically, the cancer is in remission right now. The wound resulted from treatments to get rid of the cancer in my leg. It just won’t heal. It’s kinda like trying to grow grass on concrete.”
The leg wound has been just one more battle for Harvey Copeland to fight. And that fight goes on.
Harvey Copeland Invitational Golf Tournament
Date: Monday, April 22, 2013
Time: 11:30 a.m. lunch with 12:30 p.m. start
Location: Oak Mountain Championship Golf Club, Carrollton, Ga.
Format: 4-Man Scramble, field limited to 144 players
Cost: 4-Man Teams @ $400 per team or $100 per person
Hole Sponsorships: $200 per hole
Prizes: $500 for 1st Place Team, $300 2nd, and $200 3rd
Deadline for Application: March 20, 2013
For additional tournament information and registration and to request an application, contact Buck Swindle at firstname.lastname@example.org or Johnny Daniell at 406-390-2303/ email@example.com. For non-players donations will also be accepted.