Legendary Chandler coach recovering after cancer diagnosis

A Valley icon is recovering from a cancer diagnosis, and a tumor that caused him to lose his leg.

Chandler's John Carlson has been a staple in the teaching and athletics program in the district for decades. When word of his diagnosis got out, the love and support came pouring in.

While Carlson is a fighter, he admits cancer wasn't a fight he was ready for. Plenty of his former students and student athletes, however, are stepping up to try and help the legendary wrestling coach grapple with his recovery.

"My brother-in-law made a sign, so we put it up in the hospital," said Carlson. "It was an 'I can' sign."

John Carlson isn't going to quit. He has been telling athletes and students not to quit for years, in his various roles as wrestling and track coach and teacher in Chandler. Carlson, however, needed to take his own advice when he found out about the tumor in his leg.

"It was 47 centimeters (1.54 feet)," said Carlson. "It went from the middle of my hamstring all the way down to my ankle, it was one tumor."

Carlson's left leg was removed, from the hip down. It caused him to miss the state wrestling championship for the first time, in over five decades.

"Everybody kept asking me 'where's John?' 'Where's coach?'" said Sisto Rosales. The ordeal hit him hard. Rosales was Chandler's and Carlson's first state champion wrestler, and he's been helping coach wrestling for more than 30 years.

"He taught me a lot of things," said Rosales. "People have asked me, he was a dad to a lot of poeple, a lot of kids, he taught us to be good and grow up to be good citizens."

So, Rosales stepped up to help his legendary coach. He's helping to raise funds for the medical costs.

Carlson was hesitant at first.

"At the very beginning, I said no to any of the fundraisers," said Carlson. "I didn't want to go out and look like I was begging."

Rosales, however, wasn't the only one who wanted to help. Since Carlson's diagnosis got out, letters have been pouring in, and so have the Facebook messages. Each one means everything to the coach

"It brings tears to your eyes at times," said Carlson. "When people tell you things that you've done and you don't even realize you did them,"

Carlson said the operation, which happened in May, was a success. While Carlson is cancer-free, there are bills to be paid. There's a donation account through Chase Bank, and a fundraiser is scheduled for August 7, at Nello's Pizza in Mesa.