Survivor Story

Inspired to Continue

The truth is, Coach Kay Yow was inspired by a lot of people. She was grounded in her faith and she saw the very best in everyone she encountered. It was that outlook that enabled her to draw inspiration from literally, thousands of people, many of whom she never met.

And yet, it still seems like a tall task—to inspire the inspiration. Coach Yow was the inspiration for a lot of things. It was her vision that launched the Kay Yow Cancer Fund—her vision that provided the fuel for the Play4Kay movement.

Susan Williams is also an inspiring lady. She is someone who graciously faces the day to day battles and victories of life with optimism and faith. Her battle with cancer started in 2006, but in many ways, many good ways, it continues.

Susan tells her story as all great mothers do—her reference points begin and end with the ages of her children. Her oldest son was a senior in high school. Her younger children, twins, Blair and Chris, were in 8th grade. Susan remembers that all three kids responded in different ways to the news of their mother’s diagnosis. Blair did not say much that evening. She really didn’t say very much for a few weeks, but the signs of a child who was deeply affected were there–A few days later, Susan noticed a breast cancer ribbon on the cover of Blair’s notebook, a pink shoelace in her basketball shoes. Little things –at first.

As the kids dealt with the news, focus shifted to the course of treatment. The diagnosis seemed to be fairly straightforward. A lumpectomy followed by several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation should take care of it. Still, there were decisions to be made. Susan did not want to live in fear of the next mammogram.

Once written, can the word “cancer” ever be erased from a life?

The decision was made to have a double mastectomy. The surgery was a success.

While Susan’s surgery was a success, the battle against cancer is a process. Blair watched her mom’s battle with cancer unfold against the backdrop of Kay Yow, facing her latest recurrence of cancer, on the verge of turning her public battle into a national platform. A platform to serve, to inspire.

Growing up just minutes from NC State’s campus, Blair followed the Wolfpack Women and looked up to their leader, Kay Yow – attending her camps each summer. Now a freshman in high school, with Susan’s surgery behind them, Blair decided to launch a project. She would create a Play4Kay game at Athens Drive High School. She would build it each year. She would train her successor and hand it off. It would continue. She promised Coach Yow. She inspired Coach Yow.

On January 23, 2009, Blair hosted her 2nd annual Play4Kay game at Athens Drive High School. Coach Yow looked forward to watching the media coverage from her hospital room at WakeMed in Raleigh. The next morning, January 24, 2009, Coach Yow passed away after a 22-year battle with cancer.

But the story doesn’t end there.

Blair Williams raised over $12,000 in support of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund during her 4 years in high school. She handed her project off to a teammate and the story continued…

In addition to Blair’s efforts, Susan’s husband, Phil, also got involved. Phil had been supportive of Susan’s battle with breast cancer from day one. In fact, it was Phil who suggested the double mastectomy, to be as proactive with Susan’s health as possible. In the years since, Phil has worked to get the Kay Yow Cancer Fund approved as a beneficiary of Duke Energy’s Employee Giving program.

Susan Williams is an inspiring lady. She inspired Phil. She inspired Blair. Blair inspired Coach Yow. Coach Yow is still inspiring all of us to continue the fight!

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