McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

December 28, 2013

OU coach says faith helped her beat cancer

Ada — Faced with a diagnosis of cancer, many people might collapse in despair.

Not Jan Ross. When the assistant women’s basketball coach at OU was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, she walked into head coach Sherri Coale’s office and closed the door. After crying for a while, she started thinking of ways to beat the disease.

“Just like you do as a basketball coach,” Ross said. “You get a plan and you get goals and you just work your way through it.”

She said her faith in God played a key role in helping her beat the disease.

Ross, 49, shared her experience during a brunch Friday morning at Trinity Baptist Church. The church hosted the event for the teams competing in the Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic, which began Thursday and continued through Saturday.

This year’s tournament doubled as a fundraiser for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and Play4 Kay Sports Program. The programs are named for Kay Yow, a former women’s basketball at North Carolina State who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987. Yow died in 2009 after her third bout with the disease.

Relying on faith

A native of Chickasha, Ross played college basketball at Oklahoma Christian University. She holds the school’s record for career steals with 300 and ranks 11th on the career scoring list with 1,348 points.

As a senior, Ross earned honorable mention on the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ All-America team and won All-District IV and All-Sooner Athletic Conference honors. After ending her collegiate career at OCU, she served as an assistant coach for five years and assistant athletic director for two years.

She gained additional experience as the girls basketball coach at Broken Arrow and Del City high schools before joining the OU coaching staff in 1996.

After Ross arrived at OU, she played a key role in rebuilding OU’s women’s basketball program, according to soonersports.com. The website for OU’s athletics department said the Sooners have won six Big 12 regular-season titles, captured four postseason championships and advanced to 13 consecutive NCAA tournaments since Ross’ arrival.

Ross also helped guide the Sooners to the NCAA championship game in 2002 and the national semifinals in 2009 and 2010.

Two years later, she was diagnosed with cancer. Her doctors caught the disease in an early stage, but she still had a long road ahead.

Ross said her family, friends and faith gave her the tools she needed for her battle against cancer.

“I say all the time it wasn’t a fair fight because I had all these people on my side and all these resources, plus my faith,” she said. “It wasn’t a fair fight.”

Ross had surgery in May 2012 and endured chemotherapy treatments through July. She stayed home and rested through July, which is a busy recruiting month, then returned to work while she continued her fight against cancer.

Today, Ross is in remission.

Ross said cancer patients need two tools for survival: a positive attitude and faith in God.

“I was fortunate enough that I was in a good place, because I couldn’t have made it through without my faith,” she said.

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