Yow vs. Cancer & the Vandals

by Suzie Raven

Last month, vandals defaced a mural honoring Kay Yow, the longtime women's basketball coach at North Carolina State who recently lost her 22-year battle against breast cancer. After the men's N.C. State-UNC basketball game in January, a sky blue mustache and the words “Cancer Rules” materialized on her unofficial campus mural, which appears on a pink background.

Yes, someone actually wrote the words “Cancer Rules” on a picture of someone who lost the battle against cancer.

Along with outrage and disgust, this has sparked discussion about whether these words were written by a student from the University of North Carolina who was playing a prank, an N.C. State student who wanted to make UNC look bad, or a random nut job not affiliated with either university. We can speculate all we want, but it doesn’t matter. We’ll never know who did it. We can all agree that it’s the despicable act of a sick, twisted human being.

The mural is located in N.C. State’s “free expression tunnel,” the future of which is now being debated by a cultural task force. “Cancer rules” was written in the same place as racist graffiti directed toward President Barack Obama during his campaign.

The task force is leaning towards keeping the mural. That would absolutely be the right thing to do. It’s also what Yow would have wanted. The idiot who defaced Yow’s portrait should not take away this venue for artistic expression. Nor should this idiot succeed in cheapening this memorial to Yow, especially since the words “Cancer Rules” have been erased.

Yow would’ve wanted the mural to stay up, not because she would’ve sought a tribute to herself, but because it’s a highly visible way to raise awareness about breast cancer. She also wanted people to know that while cancer is awful, life does not stop with a diagnosis.

Yow’s life certainly did not. She lived 22 full, vibrant years after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987. She led the women’s Olympic basketball team to a gold medal in 1988, just one year after that diagnosis. She also led the N.C. State Wolfpack to four Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championships and the 1998 Final Four over the course of her career. Though she was a brilliant basketball coach, she will be even better remembered for her strength, courage and kindness. Her words echo in the hearts of many who knew her.

“One of her favorite lessons was that you have zero control over what happens to you in life, but 100 percent control over how you respond to it. And she always chose to respond with the most positive, optimistic possible outlook. That’s what people will remember long after her coaching records are broken,” remembers one student.

People will remember her lessons and her spirit because she realized that she could have a passion for basketball while realizing there is more to life than winning. "I said a long time ago in my career that if what I'm doing is just about W's and L's — wow, how superficial. I give my whole life to that? No, it's about investing in people,” Yow said.

It’s awful that someone defaced a memorial to an amazing woman like Kay Yow. While there is nothing nice to say about the graffiti, it helps to know that her spirit and legacy will far outlive those hateful words.

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jeffsiegel said...

Why sick and twisted? I'd argue that in our culture today, there are those who are otherwise normal who think that kind of thing is funny. They understand the rights of free speech, but not the consequences. It's not that far from Don Imus' nappy whores to this.

And the worst part about all of this? That whoever did this will hide behind anonymity and free speech, and the rest of us will suffer.

Suzie said...

It's sick and twisted because there is nothing funny about cancer taking someone's life. You're right about anonymity. Whoever did it probably felt far more secure knowing they would not be found. The nappy whores comment wasn't okay either, but at least Imus had to face people's anger.

Z said...

If not sick, it's sickening. Just because we've had don imus doesn't mean we may justify every act of ignorance

Emmy said...

So, then, if we are to "justify" or "not justify" every act of "ignorance" then where exactly should we draw the line? And who should be charged with the line-drawing? And who should charge the ones with the charging of the line-drawing? And then could justification or non-justification by the charged line-drawers be sickening to the defacer...who might have also been sickened himself or herself with the mural? Which might have motivated the deface-ment? If indeed drawing blue mustaches in a "free speech tunnel" is truly deface-ment...

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