Community rallies behind football coach diagnosed with liver cancer

Local News

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WPRI) — Middletown and Portsmouth High Schools went head-to-head in their annual Thanksgiving Day football game this morning, but Middletown’s coach is fighting a battle off the field after recently being diagnosed with liver cancer.

People on and off the field wore green to show their support for 58-year-old Arthur Bell, a veteran football coach who has also coached at Portsmouth Abbey, North Kingstown, Bryant and Salve Regina.

Bell told Eyewitness News that he’s happy he was able to finish up the football season and devote his energies to fighting the disease.

“I have to make some tough decisions in the future,” he said. “I just love being around the kids and love the game. It’s just a rare disease and it’s in one spot. I’m in a research trial so hopefully it’ll work out for me.”

“Shocked,” his daughter, Kelsey, said of his diagnosis earlier this month. “Just the last person in the world you would think this would happen to and the last person that deserves it. He is there for everyone all the time. He is just so appreciative. He texted me last night, ‘look at all the gifts they sent me, I just can’t believe it.’ So it’s definitely keeping him in high spirits.”

At the Thanksgiving Day game, family and friends sold ‘Coach Bell Strong’ shirts with all the proceeds going to help cover his medical costs.

“It means the world to have all these family and friends and all this support from both sides, actually, and it’s that kind of positive stuff that keeps you going,” coach Bell said.

Bell is now undergoing chemotherapy at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

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