UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Magazine Fall 2016 - Page 12

“When you fight cancer, you also fight the tremendous symptoms from chemotherapy and what it does to your body. I made a vow with myself that I wanted to completely recover. I did the work to get stronger. I ate everything that you’re supposed to. I really put all I had into it.” 10 U A B At the time, Ms. Evans was head coach of the women’s golf team at Auburn University and was preparing to host the NCAA regional tournament there in Auburn. For several months prior, she had felt extreme levels of fatigue, which she mostly attributed to her schedule of coaching and traveling. “I would get home from practice, take a shower and sometimes just have a snack and go to bed. It didn’t matter if it was 6 or 7:00 at night,” Coach Evans recalls. “I lost about 10 pounds, and I did bloat. I had some classic signs. When you travel a lot, eating granola bars on a golf course, it’s easy not to realize that’s just not the way your stomach feels all the time. I was definitely fighting something.” Coach Evans finally went to a doctor in Montgomery, who discovered a mass and that she had elevated levels of CA125, a protein found on the surface of many ovarian cancer cells. Her doctor recommended she see a specialist and referred her to the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. Within a few weeks, she was seeing Warner Huh, M.D., director of the UAB Division of Gynecologic Oncology and Cancer Center senior scientist. That’s when she got the news – she had clear cell carcinoma ovarian cancer. “I was pretty naïve to cancer,” Coach Evans says. “I looked it up, and I read about two paragraphs and thought ‘oh my gosh.’ I never did any more research. I thought if I look this stuff up, I’ll put myself in the grave. I didn’t want to think about that.” Coach Evans immediately began chemotherapy treatments, and she put her trust in Dr. Huh and her entire treatment team. “Dr. Huh was so incredibly good about what to do, and the infusion nurses are so full of knowledge,” she says. “I had total trust in Dr. Huh. In all honesty, that’s hard for anyone to do, trusting in so meone who you’ve just met. But you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing, and I did.” Coach Evans’ initial response to chemotherapy was difficult. She continued to lose weight. She struggled with eating and staying hydrated, even losing her sense of taste. She also lost her hair and developed neuropathy in her hands and feet. “If there was a side effect to get, I got it.” C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R Making a Vow Because Coach Evans knew that the chemotherapy was necessary for her to defeat cancer, she committed to finding ways to manage those side effects of her treatment. “When you fight cancer, you also fight the tremendous symptoms from chemotherapy and what it does to your body,” she says. “I made a vow with myself that I wanted to completely recover. I did the work to get stronger. I ate everything that you’re supposed to. I really put all I had into it.” Coach Evans also credits support from her community, Auburn University and the Auburn Athletics Department in helping her get through treatment. Family and friends drove her to and from Birmingham, and her church and the athletics department provided meals. The male golf coaches in the Southeastern Conference all shaved their heads in solidarity, and their teams wore rally socks and posted photos on social media to show their support. “I learned a great deal about what it means to have people love you, and I don’t know that I had ever thought about that,” Coach Evans says. “It’s amazing to have that kind of support, because that’s what gets you through it.” Coach Evans completed five rounds of chemotherapy, and after six months, she was declared cancer-free in October 2013. With that news, she made some other changes in her life. She retired from coaching and took a position as special assistant to the vice president of student affairs at Auburn. “I thought that would be really hard on me, but I’m enjoying my new job and life,” she says. “I retired for no other reason than to give myself the very best way to live each day to the fullest and be able to reach out to other people who are fighting this disease.” Since finishing her treatment, Coach Evans has become an active member in the cancer community. She serves on the boards for the Birmingham-based Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation as well as the Chicken Salad Chick Foundation. She is also involved in programs that pair cancer survivors with patients going through treatment.