The Wolfpacker

March 2018

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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78 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY TIM PEELER A nniversaries can be awesome, and they can be awful — all at the same time. Listening a few weeks ago to the final words former head coach Jim Valvano ut- tered to a tear-stained standing-room-only crowd at Reynolds Coliseum reminded me of that, and the immeasurable sadness we all felt 25 years ago during the spring of 1993. Many of us knew that Valvano was sick following his diagnosis of metastatic ade- nocarcinoma, a glandular cancer that often spreads to the bones. He never tried to hide it. We all figured, however, that he would throw some kind of medical junk defense at it — a- box-and-one, a triangle-and-two, or some- thing with a chemotherapy chaser — and he would recover before tournament time. Then on Jan. 11, 1993, Sports Illustrated came out with Valvano on the cover, and writer Gary Smith told us in a story en- titled "As Time Runs Out" just how bad Valvano's prognosis was — and how short the coach's time was likely to be. It put an entirely new emphasis on the upcoming 10-year anniversary of Valvano's greatest miracle, the 1983 Cardiac Pack, which was scheduled for Feb. 21 in a na- tionally televised game against Duke. Val- vano was due to broadcast the game with Brent Musburger, and every player and staff member from the national champion- ship team was invited to attend. An hour before the game, the lights went down and 12 members of the team filed out to the sidelines to greet their coach. The crowd roared. In the basement of Reynolds, Valvano was struggling to make it up the 23 stairs that led from the training room to the court. He was nauseated, he was weak, and he needed the help of golf coach Rich- ard Sykes and facilities manager Shannon Yates just to get to the ground floor. For the next 30 minutes Valvano capti- vated the audience. He told them about the lessons he learned 10 years earlier, about the importance of never giving up. He told them he was going to fight like hell to beat the disease. "And, if by chance the Lord wants me, He's going to get the best damned broad- caster and ex-basketball coach that they've ever had up there," Valvano said, as the crowd cried. "I'll tell you that." The separation and mourning truly began at that moment, when we realized that even Valvano didn't think a real comeback was possible. The crowd at Reynolds and all Wolfpack fans — moved by his enthusi- asm, but well aware of his fate — endured his demise for the next nine weeks. At the ESPY's at Madison Square Gar- den, we saw him accept the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award with the sparkle we remembered from years past. Even more sharply, we heard him say the words, "Don't give up, don't ever give up." We also saw broadcasting partner Dick Vitale help him up the stairs and onto the stage that evening, and Duke head coach, one-time bitter rival and now close friend Mike Krzyzewski help him down. It was pretty obvious that it was Valvano's final shining moment. "Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities," Valvano said that night. "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." Valvano did what is believed to be his last interview three days later, with Char- lotte Observer reporter Charles Chandler. He and his wife Pam were partnering with ESPN to start the V Foundation for Cancer Research, fulfilling one of the many goals he often wrote on 3x5 index cards. "I'm going to spend whatever time I have left trying to give some hope to others," he told Chandler. "My message to everyone is: 'Here's a chance.' It may not save my life, but let's get the money to the doctors in the research hospitals so my daughter doesn't get it, so your child doesn't get it, so we can find cures. The future is unlimited if you believe. Believe in that one concept: You can make a difference." Valvano spent his final days at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, visited frequently by Krzyzewski, whose mother was in the same facility, fighting terminal cancer. Valvano's battled ended on April 28. He was just 47 years old. Touchingly, Valvano's daughter Jamie — who took time off of her senior year at NC State to travel with her father and was in the audience at the ESPY's — was diagnosed with breast cancer a dozen years after her father's death. Thanks to ground- breaking research, doctors were able to uncover the genetic mutation she had in- herited and create a course of treatment that increased her odds of survival. Thirteen years later, she is keeping her father's legacy alive. Before he died, Valvano turned the re- sponsibility of curing cancer over to his older brother Nick, who became the V Foun- dation's first chief executive officer. He held that position for 20 years before retiring in 2013 and turning the reins over to Susan Braun, an experienced cancer fundraiser. Nick Valvano built the organization to a highly regarded status, creating an endow- ment that fully funds the small staff and shepherding the foundation's first grants to young cancer researchers. In 25 years, the V Foundation has given grants worth more than $200 million to researchers around the world. Its scientific advisory board reviews and then recom- mends the best proposals from more than 60 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer facilities for funding consideration. One hundred percent of all direct dona- tions go to cancer research, and it is recog- nized as a platinum and four-star charitable organization. So, yes, anniversaries are awful, as we recall the last fading days of Valvano's life 25 years ago. But they are also awesome in remembering what has been done, and what can still be done, to honor his wishes for finding a cure for the disease that took his life. ■ ■ PACK PERSPECTIVE Jim Valvano's Lasting Legacy Tim Peeler is a regular contributor to The Wolfpacker. and can be reached at The Wolfpacker is a publication of: Coman Publishing Company, Inc., P.O. Box 2331, Durham, N.C. 27702. Offices are located at 905 West Main St., Ste. 24F, Durham, N.C. 27701. (919) 688-0218. The Wolfpacker (ISSN 0273-8945) is published bimonthly. A subscription is $39.95 for six issues. For advertising or subscription information, call (800) 421-7751 or write The Wolfpacker. Postmaster: Send address changes to: The Wolfpacker, P.O. Box 2331, Durham, N.C. 27702. Periodical mail postage paid at Durham, N.C. 27702 and additional offices. First-class postage is $14 extra per year. E-mail: • Web site: Valvano helped start the V Foundation in 1993, and in the 25 years since it has generated more than $200 million for cancer research. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS

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