I’ve had many wonderful memories of my friend, my coach, my mentor, Kay Yow. I wanted to share one during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The night the court was dedicated in her name will always be special and a proud moment for me because of my role in the court bearing her name. Beating undefeated and # 1 Duke in the ACC Tournament emotional since she could not stand on the bench without help. Both of these moments were from the 2007 season, a season that will always be special for me as a broadcaster in those emotional, heart-stretching moments.
I want to share a memory from 1998, the year Coach Yow added to her resume with her first and only trip to the Final Four. The day following a heartbreaking defeat by La Tech in the national semifinals, I attended the Senior All Star game that was played between the semis and the finals of the NCAA Tournament. I selected a seat on press row and visited with a friend in the stands. When I returned to my seat, Coach Yow was sitting next to me.
In July of 1997, my middle son, Frankie was born. Frank and I didn’t know until an hour after his birth that Frankie was born with Down Syndrome. It was news without warning or preparation. I was struggling during this time. I had not seen Coach Yow very often that season and didn’t have time to have meaningful conversation but she knew I was struggling with managing the plans and choices for our future as a family. I wasn’t planning to talk about Frankie and my challenges at that moment with Coach Yow. She had just lost a devastating game and a dream season had come to an end.
As the jump ball was tossed and we chatted about the events of the previous night, she began to dig into my opportunities as a parent of a special needs child. She related my struggles to finding out I would have a different path than the one we had planned for our family, just like finding out the news that she had cancer. So as only Coach Yow can do, she started to tell a story. It was a story of faith and determination and how God had given us something that we could handle: her cancer and my challenges to raise Frankie.
She started like this. When faced with adversity, we nurse the hurt. We want people to feel sorry for us. The second step is we curse the hurt. We are mad this adversity happened to me. We ask why and don’t understand. Then we rehearse the hurt. We look for empathy and want people to feel sorry for us and coddle us instead of encouraging us to move forward. The final step is we reverse the hurt. At some point we decide to make a choice about the way we are going to handle adversity. We decide to make a positive change in our attitude and our outlook. When we do this, we are on our way to making a difference in our lives and in the lives that we touch.
I was nine months from giving birth to Frankie. It was shortly after that conversation that I decided she was right. It was time for me to make the right choices with my responsibilities as a mother for my family. My struggle thru all four stages was true. She put it into context that I could understand. I am the strongest advocate for my son Frankie who is smart, handsome, athletic, funny and very social. Frankie is all of those things and just happens to have Down Syndrome. It doesn’t define who he is; it is a part of him.
I’ve had many wonderful memories with Coach Yow in my 30 year relationship with her as a camper, player and professional. The time she spent with me at that game during that time in my life, will be forever remembered. I am so thankful that Coach Yow continued to mentor me years after I had graduated proving once again that she cared about us as people first, before she cared about us as players.