This tourney extra special for BYU coach


Published: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 7:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 7:03 p.m.

OKLAHOMA CITY — There was plenty of time to think. That's the thing about being sick. You have time to think about how much time you have left.

So Dave Rose would think.

He'd think about everyone he knew who had pancreatic cancer.

"There were about eight of them," he told me Wednesday in the Brigham Young locker room. "And then I started thinking how they are all gone."

He started thinking about Patrick Swayze, who had been diagnosed with the disease. And then Swayze became a statistic. He started thinking about Myles Brand, who was the director of the NCAA and had the disease. And then he died.

"Both of them while I was going through it," he said.

He thought about the chances for survival. They aren't good. About five people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive. That's out of a million.

"It's a death sentence," he said.

Except he didn't die. Instead he is here in Oklahoma City getting his BYU team ready to take on Florida in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

"It changes your life," he said.

He's been to the tournament before. He's never been so happy to be dancing.

Rose, in his fifth year as BYU's coach, was lucky. Pancreatic cancer usually doesn't reveal its symptoms until it's too late to do anything about it. But on a flight to Las Vegas last June, Rose started to feel dizzy. He crumbled across three seats on the plane and was whisked to a hospital as soon as the plane landed.

There, he was vomiting blood. His wife Cheryl was screaming at doctors, "You have to save him!"

The cancer had actually left his pancreas and a tumor had formed on his spleen. The spleen was removed as well as a piece of his pancreas and six lymph nodes to make sure they got it all. Rose needed 10 pints of blood during the operation.

After five days, he was taken by ambulance to a cancer center in Provo where he spent six days.

Thinking.

About lost friends. About Swayze and Brand.

About his chances for survival.

You look at the BYU media guide and in every picture Rose has dark hair. Today it is completely gray. Beating cancer will do that to you.

"It was an ordeal," Rose said.

When he finally met with his team last summer to tell them what was going on, they were so taken aback by his appearance that they fasted for a day in support of their coach.

"It was tough definitely, not knowing what was going to happen," said guard Jimmer Fredette. "It was a tough time for us."

On July 22, Rose received the good news that an MRI scan showed his cancer was gone. Because the cancer left his pancreas, he is not considered cured but treatable. He still has to make annual visits for scans and other tests to make sure there has not been a relapse.

But he was allowed to return to coaching.

"In the summertime when I met with them after my diagnosis, we just kind of all wanted to see if things were going to work out for me and the team was dedicated and prepared to work hard," Rose said. "And then when I got the good news I was going to be able to come back and we just kind of rolled from that spot."

BYU won 29 games, the most in school history. The Cougars won their fourth straight Mountain West Conference title. They secured an NCAA berth for the fourth straight season.

"It was really hard but every player used it as a little motivation," guard Jackson Emery said. "It was a good thing for our team, too, because it brought us closer together."

No matter what happens here at the Ford Center this weekend, Rose will be forever grateful to his players.

"We won a lot of games and that made it easier for me and my health situation," he said. "I know that I'm fortunate to be able to do what I'm doing."

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. You can listen to The Pat Dooley Show weekdays from 4-6 p.m. on 104.9 FM. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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