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December 7, 2012
Terry Kix is a fighter.
On the bench during Purdue games over the years, she's usually the first to stand up for the Boilermakers if she feels they've been wronged, even picking up a technical foul here or there.
But Kix, Purdue's seventh year director of basketball operations, is waging a much bigger battle now; she has stage 3 stomach cancer N1 (meaning in a lymph node, as well). She missed her first game Thursday night, a win at IPFW, as she undergoes chemotherapy.
The Boilermakers know of Kix's fire, having seen it first-hand over the years.
"They all said, 'She's the feistiest, most competitive person we've ever known,' " Coach Sharon Versyp said of her players' reaction to news about Kix. "They sense that from her. So I came across strong and she has too. I think they're really just playing for her."
Kix health issues were discovered in the week before Thanksgiving, when she thought he had an upper gastrointestinal ailment, or perhaps an ulcer. But it was worse.
Some news has been positive. Based on scans, she discovered the cancer, an inch in thickness, had not spread to other vital organs. And doctors found a genetic precursor to breast cancer, and are taking early preventative measures.
"We're very encouraged by that," Versyp said. "But we have a long way to go."
The Boilermakers are accustomed to adversity. It was two years ago exactly that Drey Mingo nearly lost her life in a battle with bacterial meningitis, a period in which she spent a week in the hospital battling for her life.
Kix's battle will likely go longer, but the Boilers feel it's one she can win.
"Adversity is kind of like our middle name, but it's what makes us so special and makes us a family," Mingo said. "It makes us closer because it's not just about basketball."
Kix might be helped that she's in relative good heath and is an athlete in her own right. She was a two-time field hockey All-American at Connecticut, where she won a national championship as a player in 1981, then again as an assistant in 1985.
In '84, she was a finalist for college field hockey's top honor, the Broderick Award. And she was named the Connecticut Female Athlete-of-the-Year.
Kix went on to be a 15-year head coach at Maine, being named the America East Coach-of-the-Year four times.
"Being an athlete, that's why Drey made it, you're strong," Versyp said. "It's that mental toughness. She's going for her third national championship. She won it as a player, she won it as a coach and this is her (winning it) as an amazing person. She's more of an amazing person than she was a player or coach and she's going to get it done.
"We'll battle and win. Prayers have been answered with a lot of different situations. The team needs her and she needs them. The power of family, the power of love, the power of laughter is very important. She's a fighter."
As she undergoes grueling treatment - surgery could follow, if doctors suggest that path - the Boilermakers will try to rally around her. But Kix, who will soon lose her hair due to the chemo, is unlikely to be back on the bench this season, perhaps only for an occasional home game, health permitting.
"(But) maybe she'll kick the crap out of it," Versyp said. "You never know. I wouldn't doubt it if Terry would be back on the bench (soon) with a 'do-rag on."
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