Giving thanks: Digger Phelp now ‘2-0’ against cancer

My latest Chicago Tribune column is on Digger Phelps. The former Notre Dame coach and current ESPN college basketball analyst will be giving thanks during the holiday season.

You also can access the column via my Twitter feed: @Sherman_Report.

From the column:

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Digger Phelps was only 32 when he recorded his signature moment on the court. On Jan. 19, 1974, the Notre Dame basketball coach defeated John Wooden and ended UCLA’s record 88-game winning streak with a 71-70 victory in South Bend.

Now 40 years later, Phelps will be inducted in the Irish’s Basketball Ring of Honor on Jan. 19.

“We beat seven No. 1 teams,” said Phelps of his 20-year run on the Notre Dame bench.

Yet when Phelps thinks of his most significant victories these days, it has nothing to do with basketball.

“I’m 2-0 against cancer,” Phelps said. “I don’t want to try for the hat trick.”

Indeed, the 72-year-old college basketball analyst for ESPN will be giving thanks during the holidays for overcoming a second bout with cancer. In 2010, he underwent treatment for prostate cancer. Then in April, Phelps learned he was suffering from bladder cancer.

Phelps insists he went into coach mode after receiving a second cancer diagnosis.

“I told the doctor, ‘OK, what’s the game plan?'” Phelps said.

Phelps reports he is cancer free following the initial treatment. He continues a maintenance program to make sure the cancer doesn’t return.

Phelps’ brushes with cancer now have him coaching up in a different way. He is trying to alert men about the importance of getting annual physicals that include prostate and bladder screenings.

When Phelps turned 60, he made a point of going regularly to his doctor. Now he goes twice a year, and he thinks it might have saved his life.

“If I went for a physical in last October and something kicks in November, and I wait until next October to see the doctor again, I could have had some serious issues here,” Phelps said. “Men need to stop being macho. Make yourself a priority and get yourself checked.”

 

 

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