Baseball coach strikes out stage 4 colon cancer

VBMC colon cancer patient John Manganiello.


A high school teacher and coach from Highland, NY, hosted the second annual baseball tournament to raise awareness about colorectal cancer.


John Manganiello had a “surreal” experience running at 5 a.m. on September 6, 2023. It was the first day of school for the high school teacher. For most people, it would be an ordinary day. For John, it was exactly one year after he nearly died from advanced colon cancer.


Colon cancer diagnosis


In the summer of 2022, John said, “I was in the best shape of my life.”


He described himself as a jock who was lifting weights and doing cardio workouts most days. He ate healthily and did not drink alcohol.


John enjoyed a meaningful and purposeful life as a dedicated high school teacher, coach, baseball player, husband and father.


Suddenly, he found himself in the Vassar Brothers Medical Center emergency department on Labor Day Weekend in 2022. He started feeling unwell on the first day of school, unable to eat or go to the bathroom.


“I was really weak; I felt like I was dying,” John said.


John got devastating news: He had a bowel obstruction caused by a massive tumor in his gastrointestinal tract. It was likely colon cancer. He was only 48 years old.


“It was so bleak,” John said.



Dr. Pranat Kumar, a colorectal surgeon, performed surgery to relieve John’s symptoms from the blockage and to take a biopsy of it.


“The biopsy confirmed John had colon cancer,” Dr. Kumar said. “The cancer had spread to surrounding intra-abdominal organs, which meant he had stage 4 metastatic colon cancer.”



Dr. Kumar needed to perform a colostomy due to the size of the tumor, which was inoperable at the time. He connected a colostomy bag to the outside of John’s abdomen through a stoma so his body could remove waste from the digestive tract.



Recovery after colon cancer surgery


After several months of chemotherapy, the tumor shrunk enough for John to have surgery on June 22, 2023 — the last day of that same school year.


John recovered in the hospital for nearly two weeks after surgery.


“Surgery was a lot,” John said.


VBMC colon cancer patient John Manganiello after colon cancer surgery.


VBMC colon cancer patient John Manganiello after colon cancer surgery.


But John loves to exercise, and he was back at the gym as soon as possible.


“I was light weightlifting and walking on the treadmill about a week after coming home from surgery,” John said. “Then, I walked about 2.5 miles two weeks after surgery.”


“I worked my butt off,” John said. “One year later, I had no colostomy bag, healed from surgery and was running before work.”


VBMC colon cancer patient John Manganiello in the gym working out.


On September 16, 2023, John was back on the baseball field — playing, running and throwing. On November 23, 2023, he celebrated more milestones since the colon cancer diagnosis: traveling and swimming.


VBMC colon cancer patient John Manganiello with his aunt and wife on the baseball field.


“My wife and I visited our son in Florida, and I went in a pool for the first time since getting sick. My wife and I always loved going to the ocean,” John said. “It was emotional for me because I thought about my first surgery and the colostomy bag; at that time, I thought I would never get to swim again.”


VBMC colon cancer patient John Manganiello in a swimming pool.


‘Full of life’ after overcoming advanced colon cancer


Today, John goes to the gym every day. He can leg press 550 pounds and bench press 275 pounds. 


“I am just as strong now, maybe even stronger, than I was two years ago,” John said. “I feel amazing and full of life.”


VBMC colon cancer patient John Manganiello in the gym working out.


Exercise and his passion for teaching and coaching helped John get through advanced colon cancer. He also set his mind to defeating the odds and overcoming stage 4 cancer.


“John’s commitment to maximizing his mental and physical health put him in the best possible position to survive stage 4 colon cancer. It has also been fortuitous that his specific cancer has biological traits that responded well to chemotherapy and aggressive surgery,” said Dr. Kumar, who is also the director of the rectal cancer program at Vassar Brothers Medical Center.


“Dr. Kumar saved my life,” John said. “I hated the colostomy bag, but if I did not have it, I would be dead.”


Even with his positive mindset and notable outcome, John said it is “nerve-racking” to have follow-up tests. He has abdominal CT scans every three months. 


“I breathe, meditate, journal and say prayers to take my mind off of worrying about test results,” John said. “I also exercise, which gives me mental and physical strength. Even if the tests show something, I am in overall good shape and can fight it.”



VBMC colon cancer patient John Manganiello with wife on the baseball field.


Raising awareness about colon cancer screenings and hope for people with cancer


John initially shared his experience when he was going through chemo as the self-proclaimed “poster child for colonoscopy screenings,” with the hope of helping others avoid a similar situation. Today, he continues to advocate for colonoscopy screenings and colorectal cancer awareness.



John wants everyone to know the screening age for people at average risk of colorectal cancer is 45, and colonoscopies can prevent colorectal cancer and detect it early. He also wants people to understand their risk. John’s dad had advanced colon cancer and his paternal grandma unfortunately died from it.



John is also sharing his experience to hopefully help others going through a health hardship.


“Stay active and stay within yourself. Have faith because doctors and medicine are so good today,” John said.



Strike Out Cancer for colon cancer awareness


John organized the second annual Strike Out Cancer baseball tournament to raise awareness about colorectal cancer in April 2024. He is grateful to his cancer care team and proceeds from the event will support the Dyson Center for Cancer Care at Vassar Brothers Medical Center.



John Manganiello, a Vassar Brothers Medical Center colon cancer patient, hosted the second annual Strike Out Cancer baseball tournament to raise awareness about colon cancer and funds for the Nuvance Health Cancer Institute.



Disclaimer: Outcomes from cancer vary from person to person. No individual results should be seen as typical.