North Carolina

Exercise helped UNC's Hatchell beat cancer

Posted July 3, 2014

— North Carolina women's basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell preaches the discipline of hard work and working out hard – practicing what she preaches, may have just saved her life.

"I was in great shape, great shape when I was diagnosed and because I was in such great shape, I was able to fight through this," said Hatchell.

Hatchell was determined to keep exercising, even while going through the exhausting treatments to fight leukemia.

"Lots of times I had felt like a Mack truck had run over me but I made myself," Hatchell said.

Coach worked out all the time during her stay in the cancer center – walking, stretching, light weights. She would get herself up out of the bed and wear gym shorts and t-shirts, never a hospital gown.

"I've always had the attitude put your big girl panties on and deal with it," said Hatchell. "I would be hooked up and as soon as they would unhook me from the chemo, about 10 minutes or so i'd be out walking, exercising."

Coach Hatchell wants to share her experience with others now, to help people just like her. Hatchell joined the Triangle Area Multiple Myeloma Support Group, her first chance for her to share her experience – preaching exercise to her new teammates, other cancer survivors.

"And through these treatments, I worked out almost every day," Hatchell said. "There were days I felt like I could not get out of the bed and I know you went through that, too."

For more than a decade, Hatchell has been running a blueberry patch in the mountains. People pick as many blueberry's as they like and are asked for a donation when they're done – a donation that goes to the Lineberger Cancer Center.

"Even before I got sick, I'd tell people all the time look if you ever get cancer, you need to come to Lineberger. You know these people are so good at what they do," said Hatchell.

Never did she realize, she would need help at Lineberger herself. Just the week before her diagnosis, she was part of a black-tie gala fundraiser for the cancer center. A fact not lost on the head of Lineberger.

"He called me, he said 'coach for all these years he said you've been giving to Lineberger and now,' he said, 'it's our time to give back to you,'" Hatchell recalled. 

And now that she's in remission, Coach can have a little fun. The wig she wore during her cancer treatments, now sits upon the trophy that signifies the ultimate achievement in basketball.

"You saw my wig upstairs, it's on my Naismith trophy," said Hatchell. "My Naismith trophy is sitting on the counter. It's got the ball on the top it's perfect for putting your wig."

No disrespect intended – just a way to cope, to survive, to live and relish every day.

"I take nothing for granted. I appreciate every day. I see the good in everything, the blessings," said Hatchell. "That's my goal every day is to take advantage of the opportunities God puts in front of me because you don't know when those opportunities are going to be gone."

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  • vt94hokies Jul 4, 4:02 p.m.

    Such a great inspiration to all. Wishing her the ultimate best.

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