Recently graduated Franklin Regional football player battling brain cancer

Tuesday, August 2, 2022 | 2:31 PM

Pain is temporary.

The long-used refrain has pushed many football players to overcome the rigors of training camp, the grind of preparation and long, sometimes injury-plagued seasons.

The same words are motivating Joe Purdue to fight cancer.

Purdue graduated from Franklin Regional in June. Less than two months later, during the final week of July, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“I have had so many injuries in football. I know my body,” Purdue said. “I knew something was wrong. I was getting really dizzy, and my face was tingling.”

Purdue, a multi-year starter at center with additional snaps at defensive end at Franklin Regional, considered playing football in college.

“God was telling me my playing days were about up,” he said.

He received his first radiation treatment Monday at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. He will continue treatments for six weeks, with hopes the couple-centimeters-sized tumor shrinks by the fifth session.

“The doctor told me not to look up what I have (online),” Purdue said. “But I did. I read about it, and it is not good. I am just taking it all in. My parents cried when we found out. I cried, too, and I don’t cry. Pain is temporary. I am letting God take the wheel on this one.”

Initially told he was dehydrated, Purdue insisted something more was wrong. His dizzy spells became more frequent, his face was tingling and he could not concentrate.

He was helping to paint a ceiling while working with his father’s home-restoration business when an “episode” came on. With the room literally spinning around him, he had to stop.

“I was putting oil primer on a ceiling, and I really felt dizzy,” he said. “I told my dad something was really wrong.”

The second opinion led to scans of his brain and the discovery of the tumor on his pons, which links the brain to the spinal cord. Tests showed the cancer was confined to his brain and had not spread.

“I had plans to go to Steelers camp, but that fell through,” he said. “I just pretty much stay at home and rest in bed. I have watched a lot of ‘Friends.’ ”

And a lot of friends have watched him.

The catalyst to recovery and normalcy could lie in a growing ring of support. It is fueling the blue-collar Purdue’s determination.

Two of his closest friends, Sal Banks and Chase Williams, fired up a GoFundMe page Sunday to help the family with medical bills.

The $20,000 goal was surpassed by Monday morning, and the total had climbed to more than $27,000 by Tuesday afternoon.

“My friends have been great,” Purdue said. “On the day I was diagnosed, they were there to 12 o’clock at night and brought me North Park Lounge (food). I ordered it. They picked it up.”

Williams, a Franklin Regional hockey standout, has been a friend of Purdue’s since the pair were in seventh grade.

“He’s always been a super supportive and loyal friend of mine,” Williams said. “Adults speak extremely high of him because he’s a very polite kid, and he always sticks to his good morals. My friend Sal and I started the page because we want to do whatever we can to help Joe and his family through this battle. We wanted to find a way so that everyone in the community could show their love and support for Joe.”

Purdue said his overcoming numerous football-related injuries motivates him to win this battle.

He had whiplash as a freshman, a knee injury as a sophomore, a thumb issue as a junior and a torn labrum as a senior, the last of which he played through before having surgery in the offseason.

“That prepared me mentally,” he said. “A lot of it is mental. I am going to get through this.”

Franklin Regional coach Lance Getsy expects Purdue to navigate his situation and give everything he has to win.

He said Purdue remains a part of the Panthers’ football family.

“He is a great young man that was always a positive leader for the team,” Getsy said. “He encouraged his teammates daily and did everything that he could possibly do to help the team. Joe worked really hard in the weight room going into his senior year, and he has a very good understanding of football. But most of all, Joe is a great young man to be around and to have a conversation with. Everything that he does, he does it with great passion and will have a very successful life because of his tremendous work ethic.

“If there is one person that I feel confident in overcoming something like this, it’s definitely Joe.”

Williams expects Purdue to rally and beat the disease.

“He’s a strong kid who’s been through some tough trials in his life,” Williams said. “He’s very religious, so he’ll have the power of God on his side throughout this battle. Myself and others have extremely high hopes for Joe, and we have nothing but love and faith in him during this tough time.”

Purdue has put off college — for now.

He has been accepted to IUP. Having earned 15 college credits in high school, he is slightly ahead in his academic pursuits.

“My mom and dad went to IUP,” he said. “I hope to enroll for the second semester. It is something I look forward to doing. Having the 15 credits is a nice backup. Hopefully I can finish when everyone else finishes.”

For now, though, his journey is just beginning.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at

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