Survivor Story

Lori Tolson – Cancer Survivor

Lori Tolson
Lori Tolson – Cancer Survivor

Lori is a long-time supporter and fan of NC State Women’s Basketball, who witnessed Coach Kay Yow’s battle with cancer firsthand. So in 2021, when she noticed her appetite had changed significantly, she decided to do a little digging to find out what was going on.

After several doctor visits and tests, she got a call from the doctor. The first thing he asked was “Are you alone?” Lori knew it had to be serious. The doctor confirmed her fear. They found a mass in her pancreas and it was cancer. She needed treatment right away. 

Lori’s treatment plan began with Whipple surgery, followed by twelve rounds of chemotherapy that would span six months. After her first treatment, she was clear for about a year. But then a spot came back. Lori would have to go through another twelve rounds of chemo – another six months! 

Lori Tolson

As a big Wolfpack fan, Lori was familiar with Coach Yow’s fight against the disease. She saw women honored at the annual Play4Kay game, a national, grassroots movement dedicated to bringing communities together and honoring cancer warriors in the fight against all cancers affecting women. 

During her first bout with the disease, Lori happened to be at Duke Hospital for surgery around the same time as a Play4Kay game. She watched and was inspired from her hospital bed. The following year, she would walk with other survivors for the first time on Kay Yow Court in Reynolds Coliseum. This was incredibly special to her not only because of her love for NC State but because of her battle with cancer too. Lori has been honored on the court as a survivor twice now!

Lori’s treatments ended with radiation in June of 2023. This month, she’ll have another scan done to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.

Lori said that this has been a journey for her, and she’s taking life one day at a time. She’s thankful she has today and she’s not sitting in a chemo chair. Her biggest supporters throughout her journey have been her son and niece, whom she loves dearly. Lori said she had a lot of support from all her friends and family, and she couldn’t have done it without every single person–people who volunteered to drive her to chemo treatments, people who sent cards, brought food over, and even those who she didn’t know who offered up prayers. Every person is a blessing.

Every cancer journey is different, but Lori likes to tell people that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. “There will be good days and bad. It’s important to give yourself grace when the bad days come. Letting your emotions out is important. Try to avoid bottling them up. And lastly, accept help from others who are offering. They are offering because they love you and want to help.” 

Lori’s niece, Amanda, got to meet Coach Yow during her battle with cancer – and it was a day she’d never forget. Amanda was the president of the Student Wolfpack Club and presented Coach Yow with a fundraising check for the inaugural Hoops for Hope (now known as Play4Kay) game. 

Amanda said, “Coach Yow made me feel like I was the most important person on her schedule that day. Little did I know that 15 years later cancer would come to impact me and the life of someone I love so much. Coach Yow and her legacy were with us for many days of chemo treatments constantly reminding us that ‘if life kicks you, let it kick you forward’!” What a testament to Coach Yow and the impact she is still making today.

Thank you Lori for sharing your incredible journey. You are an inspiration to all.

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