Lou Valdin is no stranger to playing through pain.
And though the former longtime Hahnville head football coach channeled that experience into a different area this time around, in many ways he’s never been happier to do it.
The morning after he underwent successful surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his lung, he jumped on his computer and enjoyed a little meeting and teaching time with his world geography students at Shaw High School, live from his hospital bed.
“We have two twins from Luling and their mother put a picture of me teaching their kids from the hospital, and I thought that was pretty cool,” Valdin said. “Hey, the pain didn’t bother me … (the medical staff) told me ‘we got it all, you’re gonna be fine,’ so I’m over here doing backflips.”
The procedure took place last week and saw half of Valdin’s right lung removed, and it went well enough for his surgeon to cancel his prospective follow-up appointment – “It was to see if I’d need chemo or radiation, and they said you’re fine. There’s no need,” he said.
While it turned into a best case scenario, he admitted there was of course some anxiety from his initial diagnosis in December until the situation was taken care of. Valdin began undergoing tests after a routine urology appointment last year.
“There were blood cells in my urine specimen and the urologist sent me to get a CAT scan just to check it out. They said everything looked good except for this little spot on your lung,” Valdin said. “We don’t think it’s anything, likely just calcium, but we’re going to order another scan in four months to see if it grows. Well it did a little bit.”
Next he visited a pulmonary specialist and underwent a biopsy.
“(The specialist) told me he’d bet everything he owns this ain’t cancer. Man, I shoulda took that bet,” Valdin quipped with a chuckle. “It comes back and they say it’s cancer. I’ve never smoked, ever, so obviously it came as a shock to me … where the tumor was located, it’s a spot that’s not cancerous most of the time. Every sign was there that there was no way … but sometimes you just get it.”
He encountered a familiar face when he met his surgeon, Dr. Matthew Gaudet, who Valdin coached at Jesuit High School. Gaudet was optimistic the problem could be removed without further complications, though the coach joked that the doctor may have been a little mad at him after Valdin let it be known online the former Blue Jay was handling things for him.
“He said every player who played on those teams texted him, ‘Hey, you better take care of the old man!’” Valdin said. “It meant a lot to me that so many people reached out, especially those guys I had the honor to coach … that they thought enough of me to call me and wish me well.”
One additional source of anxiety came due to COVID-19, which threatened to potentially delay the procedure by several weeks. Valdin credited Gaudet for pushing to make it happen when it did, and he also noted it was fortunate he received his diagnosis in December, as it allowed the issue to not progress further.
Valdin, an defensive assistant coach with Shaw, is one of Louisiana’s most widely recognized coaches in the prep game. He went 132-48 over his 15 year tenure as Hahnville High’s head coach, including a 2003 season that saw him lead the Tigers to the Class 5A state championship and seven district championships. Valdin also served as a head coach at East St. John and has coached at Jesuit, John Ehret and Higgins. His tenure at Shaw is his second on staff with the school, his alma mater.
His profile has also grown through his work with WWL Radio, where he’s regularly been featured as a lead analyst and commentator for the station’s prep football coverage since his departure from the Hahnville program following the 2013 season.
A few days after the surgery, he said he was still experiencing some pain but it’s waning by the day. He gets a little exercise in each day by the levee near his home and the online classes with his students help keep his routine fresh. He’s keeping out of crowded places like stores for now, but says he’s been told he has no restrictions outside of that.
“That first time you let out a yawn after you go home, woah, man,” Valdin said. “It’s getting better. At the hospital when I woke up, it’s like my eyes were crossed after every breath. Right now, it doesn’t hurt much. Just some rib stuff where there’s not a lot of meat.
“Other than that, I’m fine. When you’ve broken as many things as I have in my life, it doesn’t bother me.”