I’m embarrassed to admit, but I write this post in shock and sadness. I had not realized, not until reading an article in The New York Times (of all places!), just how serious NC State women’s basketball coach Kay Yow‘s cancer had progressed. The hall-of-fame legend who once coached the Olympic women’s team is at cancer’s grim mercies.
In my defense, I have to say that Coach Yow’s been a cancer survivor for so long that it just seems a part of her biography: Kay Yow? She beats cancer. The Road-Runner bests the Coyote, Jerry outwits Tom, and Kay Yow beats cancer.
Even when the cancer returned to sideline her this season by a resurgence, it just seemed scripted that she would beat it back again. So I really didn’t pay that much attention to the signs that her condition was seriously deteriorating. I just thought Yow was writing another chapter in her personal testimony to her faith, her will, and her strength.
Her faith even now inspires, more than ever. But alas, the flesh is weak.
Tonight, Coach Yow and the Lady Wolfpack will take the court at 7:30 in the RBC Center to face Baylor in the NCAA Tournament. This could be her last game in Raleigh; your last chance to cheer on a Wolfpack legend, an inspiration to millions, a great lady.
One might ask why Yow is coaching now, in her state. I think SFN poster noah answered that one:
I imagine that if I ever have cancer and it progresses to a certain point, I would spend my days doing what I loved most. I’d try to breathe as much air off the ocean as possible, I’d try to spend as much time with my wife and family and my dog as I could.
When I heard earlier this year that Yow’s cancer had reached THAT point, that there probably wasn’t going to be a rebound this time…I was sort of surprised that she kept working. Then it hit me…THIS is what she loves to do. Me sitting on the beach on a warm day tossing a tennis ball for my dog to chase and chatting with my wife and Coach Yow sitting on the sidelines watching her girls and teaching and encouraging them — those are emotional equals.
Today’s article in The News & Observer captures some of the spirit:
The N.C. State women’s basketball team talks a lot about faith and strength and courage.
They see those qualities daily in their coach, Kay Yow, who is battling cancer while leading the Wolfpack in the NCAA Women’s Tournament. …
Senior forward Marquetta Dickens thanked Yow for helping “me grow not only as a basketball player, but also in my faith.”
Senior guard Ashley Key thanked her for “being the type woman and coach she is, and for being like a mother.”
Junior forward Khadijah Whittington said Yow had given her strength to cope with her own father’s illness.
“She is one coach that every other coach likes,” [Baylor coach] Mulkey said. “She is as fine a Christian woman as you will ever meet. It’s a good opportunity for me to have the opportunity to coach against her.”
Thousands upon thousands of North Carolinians can attest to the truth of Mulkey’s comments. I remember years ago hearing Kay Yow’s personal testimony as a Christian. Year in and out I heard how she was traveling the state sharing her faith, never losing or compromising it despite the struggles. She is as wonderful a representative of the Wolfpack as we could have.
A team takes on the character of its coach. Yow’s praise for her squad this year reflects her own fight: “Personally, I’ve been overwhelmed and impressed by what this team has done and how they have pulled together,” Yow said. “When adversity happens, you have to find a way to overcome it to be successful, and I think this team understands that.”
Cancer can take away all my physical ability. It cannot touch my mind; it cannot touch my heart; and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.
Another great Wolfpacker said it. Kay Yow embodies it.
Go out and win, Coach Yow. No matter what, you will go out a winner.