RALEIGH, N.C. -- Two months after cancer forced her away
from basketball, North Carolina State coach Kay Yow still fights a
disease that won't let her rest.
The Hall of Famer showed little sign of backing down Monday as
she announced she'd return to the team -- even as she adapts to what
her body will and won't let her do.
"Of course, I'm always anxious to get back with the team but I
have to be realistic about it," Yow said.
"I told myself that I don't want to get back with the team and
it be a hindrance. I have to be able to make a contribution. I
wanted to get back, but I wanted to be sure I could do that before
I came back."
The 64-year-old coach plans to resume her duties Tuesday, with
her first game likely coming Thursday against Atlantic Coast
Conference rival Virginia. Yow, first diagnosed with cancer in
1987, left the team in November after doctors found the cancer that
first recurred during the 2004-05 season was progressing.
Longtime assistant Stephanie Glance has led the Wolfpack (13-7,
2-3 ACC) as interim coach for the past 16 games. N.C. State has
lost two straight, falling to No. 1 Duke and No. 2 North Carolina
in the past week.
Yow is in her 32nd season as head coach here and has a record of
696-321 in 36 seasons overall. She was inducted into the Basketball
Hall of Fame in 2001 and coached the U.S. women's team to a gold
medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. She has led the Wolfpack to four
ACC tournament titles, 19 NCAA tournaments and the 1998 Final Four.
"Kay is such a fixture, a pioneer for women's basketball,"
said North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell, an assistant to Yow in
Seoul. "She's done so many things to develop and grow the sport. I
don't know anyone who doesn't owe a debt of gratitude to Kay."
Still, Dr. Mark Graham, Yow's longtime oncologist, called her
treatments "life-extending" instead of curative.
"I think she's had a good-to-excellent response at this
point," Graham said. "All of her disease is not gone."
Yow's most recent problems began when she felt so exhausted that
she had to lie down and rest in the hours leading up to N.C.
State's game against North Carolina-Wilmington on Nov. 17. She made
it through the game and called her doctor. Tests later revealed the
cancer that forced her to miss two games during the 2004-05 season
The school announced on Nov. 22 that Yow would go on leave to
focus on treatment, which included a combination of chemotherapy
and newer targeted biologic therapies. But she tried to stay
involved with the team from afar, watching games on television or
reviewing them on DVD. She also tried to attend a handful of
practices so that her players could see that she was OK.
"It was very emotional at times," forward Khadijah Whittington
said. "This is just like any other team without their head coach.
She's a link in our chain and by her not being there, it was hard.
It's very uplifting for us knowing that she's back. I'm pretty sure
we're going to play with more emotion seeing that Coach Yow is on
Yow figures rejoining the team will be part of her therapy, but
she said she'll have to adjust her "high-energy-level" approach.
She hopes to go on road trips, though said she would have to wear a
mask on airplanes to protect her immune system and might have to
skip some team functions. Her treatments might also leave her
weakened enough to keep her seated during practices or while on the
Reynolds Coliseum sideline.
Regardless, Yow sounds ready to keep fighting.
"There's no way to explain what drugs inside your body sort of
make you feel like," she said. "How I feel now is it's almost
like getting my body balanced, feeling so different on the inside
and just getting used to that and operating within that framework.
"It'll be uplifting for me to be around my staff, to be around
the people I've worked with for so long, to be around the team,"
she said. "I'm sort of coming back into this and I don't know how
everything will go. It's something I have to do and see."