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Dick Harmon: Hope is a real thing for BYU basketball coach Dave Rose on Father's Day

Published: Saturday, June 15 2013 4:00 p.m. MDT

“The next few days were a blur. I don’t remember how it happened and in what order it happened, but he almost died because of internal bleeding caused by a mass that turned out to be a tumor. He had surgery to remove the tumor that turned out to be cancer and as he was recovering from the surgery he suffered from a pulmonary embolism and almost died again. Then we were told he had pancreatic cancer. And all I remember after that are tears, sickness, panic and fear. So much fear.

“All I wanted to do was help. I wanted to do anything to make this better for him and my mother and my little brother and sister. I left my girls at home with my husband and flew to Salt Lake to be at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. I tried to do anything to help, but I felt completely and utterly helpless. What could I give him to make this better? I had no clue. It felt exactly like my frustration and stress from all those years of trying to buy him a gift — except this time the stakes were so much higher. This wasn’t a holiday. This was life and death. What could I give him to help him with this fight?”

The angst that filled the Rose family, by extension, ran its course through his BYU family: administrators, coaches, players and fans.

In this trying time, Chanell found something she could give, something all fathers need — whether they're sick, struggling with work, finances, bills, wayward children or whatever it is that fathers find themselves needing at times.

“It came to me — I could give him the gift of hope," said Chanell. "Because hope is the opposite of fear, and when I’m full of hope the fear disappears. Fear is heavy and it’s contagious. When we were afraid, my dad could feel it and he felt bad for causing us those feelings. But hope is also contagious. If one person can have the tiniest bit of hope, it will soon multiply and spread and drive the fear away. I know my dad needed every ounce of strength and energy to get better. And so I decided that I wouldn’t be afraid anymore. For an early Father’s Day gift in 2009 I gave my dad hope, and you know what that hope turned in to? My dad turned that hope into the biggest win of his life — a win over cancer.”

Since that dark flurry of days four years ago, Rose has been honored all across the country for his courage and example. He was the MWC Coach of the Year, the USBWA District Coach of the Year and Naismith Coach of the Year finalist in 2011. He took the Cougars to their first Sweet 16 appearance since 1981 that year, and he coached the NCAA’s consensus player of the year in Jimmer Fredette. In 2012, he took BYU to its sixth NCAA tournament appearance in a row, a school record.

When I approached Chanell, Garrett and Taylor to share their feelings about this trial and their father, Chanell said it is tough to do because she knows how rare it is to have a happy ending when it comes to pancreatic cancer. There are many families that have lost fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and children.

“But I’ve also learned that this lesson in hope is universal, that having hope is even more critical in those times where the miracle didn’t come and our loved ones didn’t live. I’ve learned this as I’ve lost an aunt to breast cancer, a sweet 3-year-old cousin to a brain tumor, and my mother-in-law, who was my daughter's “Yia Yia,” to breast cancer as well. I miss them every day. Nothing changes that.”

The Rose children say the experience has changed their lives for the better.

“I can't really pin point one thing that's better about my dad because he has always been my favorite person in the whole world,” said Taylor. “People probably think we just say nice things about my dad, but it's not just talk. My dad is incredible. He will always look at other people and try to help them before he looks at his own situation. He wants the best for everyone around him.”

Coach Rose speaks publicly of his experience with the theme that he is now “more appreciative of everything,” including his family, wife, kids, job, house and everything he does minute to minute. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t feel fortunate that I get to do what I’m going to do that day.”

Chanell says the experience has changed her, teaching her to love more and appreciate important people in her life, especially her father.

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