PROVO — More than four years ago, after BYU basketball coach Dave Rose underwent surgery to remove a pancreatic tumor, the doctors warned him that the cancer could return.
Every six months since that surgery, Rose has undergone scans at the Huntsman Cancer Center to evaluate his condition. All those scans came back clean — until the one in late August.
That’s when a scan revealed that cancerous spots had come back.
“It was bad news,” Rose recalled Wednesday. “After every scan, we talk about scenarios of what might happen. But this was pretty textbook as far as those scenarios. Surgery is one way of dealing with these. In this case, the doctors decided that surgery was the best thing to do. I was a little down, knowing that it had returned. But I’m grateful that my surgeon was really accommodating in getting me in as soon as possible so I could get back on the mend.”
A little more than two weeks ago, the surgeon removed cancerous spots that were “half the size of a peanut.” The first tumor that doctors took from Rose’s body four years ago was about the size of an orange.
“There were four different areas they were concerned about from the scan,” Rose said. “They went in and surgically removed those. They all came back positive, which means they are a tumor. But they were removed. They declared me, ‘no evidence of disease.’ I’m back on those biannual scans, every six months.”
With the 2013-14 season rapidly approaching — the Cougars start official practices on Oct. 7 — Rose has been recovering and is doing well.
“I feel really good,” he said. “I can do a little bit more each day. Now I’m trying to get back to the point I was before the surgery.”
A new NCAA rule allows a team to practice 30 times in the 42 days before a team's first game. BYU could start practicing Friday, but has decided to start on Oct. 7 in part because of Rose's health.
Rose is grateful for his family, assistant coaches and players who have helped him deal with his health-related issues. He can’t wait to get back to practice.
“For me,” Rose said, “the most important thing is to get healthy so I can give these guys everything I got.”
Rose said that while he doesn’t spend much time dwelling on cancer, he tries to appreciate life as often as he can.
“During the time between the scans, I think about how grateful I am for the opportunities to do what I’m doing, no matter what time of the year it is,” he said. “I don’t think about the cancer a lot until a day or two before the scan. This time was a little bit tougher because I had been living for four years where it hadn’t returned. I still had that hope that maybe it never would return, even though they told me the odds were pretty good that it would. When they told me the tumor had returned and that we needed to remove them, I started worrying about surgery and the outcome, and the team and how it would affect them. This past couple of weeks, I spent a lot more time thinking about those things than I had the past four years combined.”
For now, Rose is focused on the new season, which opens Nov. 8 when the Cougars host Weber State.
Guards Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino return, while Kyle Collinsworth is back from a mission. Meanwhile, BYU has added freshmen post players Eric Mika and Luke Worthington.
“I’m excited. This group of guys will be an interesting mix,” Rose said. “We’ve got some young, athletic big guys that don’t have a lot of experience. But we have a very experienced guard line. It will be fun to watch. They will have to bear the burden early until our young big guys catch up, experience-wise.”
BYU faces a challenging preseason schedule, with games at Stanford, Oregon and Utah. The Cougars will also face Texas, and perhaps Wichita State, in the CBE in Kansas City, as well as a game at UMass. As usual, BYU will tangle with West Coast Conference rivals Gonzaga and Saint Mary's.
There will be some tough battles, but not as tough as battling cancer. Rose is optimistic about the upcoming season.
“I’m excited about this team," he said, "and things are looking good.”
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