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Reason to smile: BYU men's basketball coach Rose optimistic about cancer battle

By Steve Luhm

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published June 24, 2009 10:19 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
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One day, BYU basketball coach Dave Rose was riding a roller coaster with his daughter at Disneyland.

The next day, he couldn't get off an airplane without assistance from paramedics.

That's how quickly the symptoms of pancreatic cancer blindsided Rose, who spoke publicly about his three-week ordeal for the first time Wednesday at the Marriott Center.

Alternately introspective, cheerful and determinedly optimistic, Rose told a terrifying story that he believes will have a happy outcome.

After being helped off the plane and taken directly to Spring Valley Hospital in Las Vegas, where his wife's family was having a reunion, Rose underwent surgery June 6 to remove his spleen and a cancerous neuroendocrine pancreatic tumor.

Rose calls himself "a lucky guy" because neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer is far less deadly form of the disease than other types.

"It's quite a blessing for me," Rose said. "It's a treatable cancer ... a manageable cancer."

According to Dr. Scott Samuelson, who attended the press conference, neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer is rare. In an average year, about 10-15 cases will be diagnosed in Utah.

Neuroendocrine tumors "grow more slowly" than the most prevalent form of pancratic cancer, Samuelson said.

"And when they spread, they tend to spread much more slowly and in a less aggressive pattern," he added. "That's the primary reason why the prognosis is much more favorable."

Because his surgery went well and there are currently no signs of cancer in his system, Rose will not have to undergo radiation treatments or chemotherapy. He will have to get plenty of rest this summer, however. He also remains under close observation by his doctors and must undergo scans for cancer once every "four or five months."

Rose, 51, plans to coach BYU next season and beyond.

"July is a busy recruiting month," he said. "But I think I will mostly turn that over to my staff. I want to make sure I do everything right and that we get to September and October and we're ready to go."

Referring to assistants Dave Rice, John Wardenburg, Terry Nashif, Tim LaComb and Zeffle Nelson, Rose said, "One of the real blessings in this whole situation is I know things are being taken care of in the best possible way."

Looking a little drawn, Rose said he feels fine, although he tires easily.

"... But for two or three hours at a time, I feel as well as I've felt in years," he said. "That's one of the reasons I'm so optimistic and positive about our situation."

Rose thanked his doctors, family, players, former players, the BYU administration and the entire Mountain West Conference family for an outpouring of affection.

"The support we've felt is unbelievable -- overwhelming at times," he said. "Not only from Cougar fans ... but from fans of every team in our league. I've heard from every head coach in this league. This is something. I've been overwhelmed by the support from people who really care and that's been a source of inspiration to us."

When Rose was asked if his illness has changed his outlook on life, he deferred to his wife, Cheryl.

"You're a little kinder [and] gentler," she said.

"That's because of the medication," he replied.

Seriously, Rose said, "This has been as difficult as anything I've ever been through. But I feel like I got a second chance and this is my time and I'm ready to go. ... I look forward every day for the opportunity to come over to the office."

Rose's smiled slightly when he spoke about his profession.

"I love to coach," he said. "I love what I do. I think that's one of the things that helped me get through this. I want to be here. I want to do this. So I'll make sure I do everything I can to be able to do that."

Did his health problems change his outlook on life?

"I promise you this," Rose said. "I will appreciate every day. I will appreciate every practice. I'll appreciate every game more than I have because I think that's what you do when you go through this."

Rose played at Houston from 1980-83 and was head coach at Dixie State College in St. George from 1990-97. He joined Steve Cleveland's staff in 1997 as an assistant and was named head coach in 2005 when Cleveland took the Fresno State job.

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Rose file

Personal

A Houston native and his wife Cheryl have three children. Rose played at Dixie State before joining the University of Houston.

Career

Record at BYU » 97-34

His 97 victories place him tied for 12th for best career starts by wins in NCAA history

Record at Dixie State » 167-57



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