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Community Rallies Around SMU Assistant Coach Battling Rare Condition

SMU football assistant coach Jamal Powell is in the battle of his life

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For Southern Methodist University assistant football coach Jamal Powell, remaining positive has never been an issue.

“No matter how low he’s gotten physically with the pain and the sickness, I can always look to him to still lead our family and set the tone for how we’re going to move forward,” said Jamal’s wife Rachel Powell.

The pain and sickness for Powell began on a recruiting trip when Jamal told his wife, Rachel, he felt bad enough to check himself into the hospital.

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“That first week I lost probably somewhere around 50% of my feelings in my extremities and my power,” Jamal said. “We came home, and I still remember it was Father’s Day, and I looked at my wife and said we need to go back to the hospital.”

After months of tests, doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center diagnosed Jamal with an autoimmune disease called Guillen-Barre Syndrome. As he began rehabilitation to combat the GBS, he received another difficult diagnosis.

“Stage 4 cancer,” Jamal said. “They said it’s uncurable [sic]. We’ll see about that.”

“You don’t ever expect it to happen to your spouse,” Rachel said. “For me, it was a little bit of panic, a little bit of anxiety. A lot of anxiety.”

What’s helped the Powells' anxiety has been tremendous support from the SMU football program, and specifically, head coach Sonny Dykes, and his wife, Kate, while friends have rallied together to raise more than $45,000 to help the family pay Jamal’s high medical bills.

“There’s not enough time to be able to talk about what they’ve meant to us to allow us to continue to fight,” Jamal said. “And when we look at that GoFundMe, it shows that love is still here on earth.”

“We feel the love,” Rachel said. “We feel the care.”

And that care allows Jamal to keep fighting, while remaining positive through it all, which is still not an issue - even in difficult circumstances.

“A lot of people tell me that just me being happy helps them, and it helps them in a different way,” Jamal said. “Hey, come on over here. You come sit down right there and watch a little TV. We can joke and play a little bit. I know there’s a reason all this is happening, we just don’t know what it is.”

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