January 20, 2005

Yow back after two-game absence for cancer treatment

RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina State coach Kay Yow decided she needed a new approach to treat her recurrence of breast cancer, the latest in a variety of ailments to hit her in the past year.

The Hall of Fame women's basketball coach decided to follow a new dietary plan -- no meat, no dairy products, no sugar and all organic food. So far, that's her only treatment after having the tumor removed last month.

``For a Southern gal like me, it's a complete overhaul,'' Yow said Thursday before returning from a two-game absence to lead the Wolfpack against Miami. ``It's nothing I'm used to doing.''

Her players wore pink laces in their right shoes -- pink is the symbol for breast cancer awareness -- for the third straight game, and Yow received a rousing ovation when she was introduced before the matchup with the Hurricanes (8-9, 0-4 Atlantic Coast Conference).

Then she got the best tribute of the day: State rallied from eight points down early in the second half to win 73-59. Billie McDowell had 23 points and reserve Khadija Whittington added 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Wolfpack.

``We were more than happy to have Coach Yow back,'' McDowell said. ``It's just a great feeling to see her back over here. We just went out there and were ready to play, and we just got it done.''

While she missed those games to start her new program, the Wolfpack (14-4, 3-2) went 1-1 under longtime assistant Stephanie Glance, including a 76-75 overtime victory over No. 23 Virginia Tech. The loss was by two points to ninth-ranked North Carolina.

``I'm just so proud of my team and my staff,'' the 62-year-old Yow said. ``They embodied everything I believe in and the history of my program.''

Yow first was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987, and her oncologist, Dr. Mark Graham, said it was a recurrence. Yow had treatment for skin cancer last year and also had a bout with pneumonia.

``My immune system is just not working like it ought to do, and that can be because of what you're putting in it,'' she said.

Having the cancer come back after 17 years is not rare, something Graham had to tell to another patient earlier Thursday. She has been healthy for the past five years after beating the identical type of cancer that Yow has.

``She wanted me to tell her that she was cured of breast cancer,'' Graham said. ``I had to tell her she was not totally out of the woods.''

But the prognosis remains positive for Yow, who's cancer-free at the moment in tests performed by Graham. If it returns, Graham said Yow probably will undergo traditional treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy.

``As she's sitting here, she is disease-free, and we'd like to keep her that way,'' Graham said. ``All cancer is not created equal, and Coach has an excellent chance to do well with this cancer. The people that have a recurrence like this have a long life.''

Yow has no plans to miss any more games, saying she hopes her new diet will give her even more energy. She has a 666-304 career record in 34 seasons, including a 609-285 mark in 30 years at N.C. State.

She was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002 and coached the 1988 U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal. In 1998, she led the Wolfpack to their only Final Four appearance.

``I'm just going to do everything I can do to make everything work out,'' Yow said. ``I feel great personally, but I don't feel comfortable with all the attention. I'm ever so aware that I'm just one of many people that have this disease.''

No comments: