One Woman at a Time…

When Coach Yow envisioned the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, she saw it wrapped around the amazing movement that is Play4Kay.  10 years later, we unpack the affects of Play4Kay and the true impact, the ripple effect, is staggering.

The obvious impact? Raising money for research. $5.63 million has been awarded so far, and we are just getting started. This is an investment that will advance science to the point that a cancer diagnosis is no longer the scariest moment in so many lives. Because, after all, as great as “cancer awareness” is, we are all aware of cancer. Only our collective fundraising efforts will eradicate it.

But there are ripples spreading to the horizon in the wake of Play4Kay that are, like all ripples are, hard to quantify, hard to measure. The ripples are moving targets, unending moving targets.

Harvard women’s basketball coach, Kathy Delaney-Smith is one of those ripples. She reflects on her diagnosis with breast cancer in 2000 as if it occurred in a different world. In many ways, it did.

“What Kay Yow did and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund has done nationally has made the road very different now than it was 20 years ago. So much hope…and, in the near future, there will be a cure,” Kathy says.

The difference in the time-lapsed landscape of our country?

The Treatment – when Kathy was diagnosed in 2000, the standard approach to breast cancer was surgery, chemotherapy, radiation – in that order. Now women have a menu of options and depending on type, the course of treatment is customized based on dozens of factors.

The Discussion – at the time Kathy was diagnosed, the conversation around cancer was a whisper. Now we shout. We put cancer on notice.

Kathy remembers the first team practice after she announced her diagnosis. The kids seemed scared, uncertain of what to do or say. To Kathy, it became apparent that she could use her situation to help these 18-22-year-old women prepare for a future that certainly involved cancer.  She used her good humor to teach them to face cancer like any other opponent, head on.

18 years later, the women who were a part of that Harvard team thank Kathy. They are now in their late thirties and, because of what their coach did for them, they have been able to fight cancer as mothers, sisters, friends and daughters.

18 years later, we celebrate that Kathy is healthy and continues to coach, shaping some of our country’s future leaders. We celebrate the changes brought on by Play4Kay and organizations such as the Kay Yow Cancer Fund that have helped advance the conversation around cancer.

The ripple effects of Play4Kay can be hard to measure, but for women like Kathy, it is obvious. Play4Kay is not about pink, it is about our team. A team that is facing cancer together. The team that is beating cancer together – one dollar at a time. One conversation at a time. One woman at a time.

#PLAY4KAY

To donate to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, click here.

This is OUR team…this is why we Play.

At this point, the list of things that Coach Yow knew is very long. And it grows each day.

Today is day 9 of the 2018 Play4Kay official window. Today’s realization: Coach Yow envisioned Play4Kay as she did because she knew teams would accomplish more than individuals. So true.

More to the point, she knew it would take a team to beat cancer. Even more true.

Sharon Versyp, Beth Courture and Terry Kix are a team. They are three members of the Purdue women’s basketball coaching staff who have battled cancer. So far, their record is 3-0 against cancer.

In March 2009, Beth was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, she was head coach at Butler University. She almost canceled her doctor’s appointment because the team had gotten in late the night before. Thankfully, she did not cancel. Her life changed that day and, though they didn’t realize it yet, so did the lives of Terry Kix and Sharon Versyp.

Fast forward. It is the week before Thanksgiving 2012, Terry is diagnosed with stage 3 stomach cancer. She immediately went into fight mode. She saw cancer as the opponent, an opponent with a 90-95% chance of besting her. It was grueling. The odds indicated a Daniel versus Goliath match up. The odds were wrong.

When Sharon was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2017, Beth and Terry became her teammates in a way that perhaps no other adversity could have crystalized or magnified. They understood what Sharon’s daily journey consisted of and were able to come along side her in the midst of the battle.

Three women. Three separate and very different battles. Three wins. One team.

On every team, there are different roles. Each important, each has their time, their contribution. In the fight against cancer, we all have a role to play, a piece to contribute.

For the last 9 days, we have been in the official Play4Kay window. It is the ultimate team event. Teams from across the country, working together, to get the biggest win – the win against cancer.

This is the way Coach Yow saw it. All of us teaming up to beat cancer. When we Play4Kay, we play for each other. We play for those who have battled, those who are battling.  We know there are battles still to come – we are playing for those too.

As we Play4Kay, look around you…sometimes the women we are battling for are the same ones we are battling with. Know your teammates. Who do you Play4?

#PLAY4KAY

To donate to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, click here.

The Sound of Hope…

If you listen to Angel Elderkin’s heart, it likely sounds like the steady bounce of a basketball. She is a coach. Her players, her staff, are family. Basketball is life.

The ball bounces.

They say when you have a life-threatening experience, you see your life flash in front of your eyes. If that is the case, a cancer diagnosis probably causes your priorities to flash in front of your eyes at lightspeed.

The word cancer is spoken, like it has been said a million times before, only this time someone was speaking to you, about you. The ball bounces quicker, much quicker. Now you are in a full court press, you are racing the clock. The only thing is, you do not know exactly how much time is on the clock.

Angel Elderkin was diagnosed with stage 3 endometrial cancer after a series of health concerns and a month of tests resulted in an eventual diagnosis. Now her priorities crystalized into a string of questions:

How would she tell her team?

What about the upcoming season?

Would there ever be a day as normal as yesterday? Ever.

Maybe those were the first questions because they were the most basic to her day to day life. Maybe those were the first because she would not allow herself to ask round 2:

What would the course of treatment be?

What were the implications for fertility?

What were the odds of survival?

At some point, the ball started to bounce at a slightly less feverish pace. She attacked cancer as a true coach. She scouted her opponent, created a game plan, and then put the long tough days it would take to win.

Telling her team was one of the hardest points. She remembers that day and can not describe the moment in detail, the intensity of emotion was so great. “I had to get in front of them, tell them the truth, see their emotion back, be vulnerable with my own emotion, but then reassure them I would be okay. Everyone in the room had different reactions. They all have been touched in some way,” she recalls.

There was the surgery, a full hysterectomy, chemotherapy, and rounds of radiation. It was intense, but so were her people.

The outpouring of support from her team, the Appalachian State community, the national community of women’s basketball coaches…the cadence of balls bouncing from across the country, the rhythm of encouragement, the sound of hope.

 

To donate to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, click here.