As reported by USA Today, August 25, 2008.

Cancer Slows UConn Coach Calhoun But Doesn't Stop Him

By Ken Davis

FARMINGTON, Conn. — Jim Calhoun always has been a night owl. In the world of coaching, that's practically a job requirement.

If he wasn't working or hanging out with his assistant coaches in the University of Connecticut basketball office, Calhoun could tell you who had been on the Late Show with David Letterman. If he wasn't flipping through the pages of a favorite book, he might be watching his beloved Boston Red Sox on television, from the first pitch to the final out.

Not this summer. This summer has been focused on Calhoun's cancer treatment. That grueling routine forced some significant lifestyle changes for Calhoun, his family, his friends and those associated with UConn men's basketball.

"I would call (home) at 9:30, and he'd be asleep," said Jeff Calhoun, 36, one of the coach's two sons. "He would go home from work early, which he never does. He wanted to keep things normal, but for the people who know him well, it was obvious that he was running on fumes. If there's anything I learned through this whole experience, it's that he is indeed as tough as I thought he was."

The fatigue and other side effects were especially evident in late July and early August, as Calhoun completed 33 trips to the University of Connecticut Health Center for radiation treatment. Those sessions were recommended by doctors as a precaution to minimize the chance of recurrence after surgery May 6 to remove a cancerous mass in Calhoun's neck. A portion of his salivary gland and 37 lymph nodes that were found to be cancer-free also were removed.

Calhoun, 66, lost about 20 pounds and a little hair behind his right ear. There are patches of irritated skin on both sides of his face. His mouth got dry and his voice hoarse, and his sense of taste left. Hand him a hot breakfast beverage, and he couldn't tell if it was coffee or tea. Serve him two danishes, and he couldn't tell which was chocolate and which was cheese.

"We called it the summer of his discontent," said Pat, his wife of 42 years. Their anniversary was last week.

Robert J. Dowsett, division chief of radiation oncology at the UConn Health Center, reports Calhoun is "on a good track, a completely expected track." And Calhoun, always the fighter, expects to be at full strength before the start of practice in mid-October.

"They told me I've got about a month or month and a half to get myself back," Calhoun said the day after his final treatment Aug. 8. "It shouldn't have any effect on the season. It's something that happened. It's been taken care of, taken care of very well, and all reports are very good."

The unofficial start to a new season came Sunday when Calhoun welcomed the 2008-09 edition of the Huskies to campus with his annual team meeting. Classes began Monday.

Senior point guard A.J. Price, himself bouncing back from surgery for a knee injury suffered in March, was at Sunday's meeting.

"He spoke about (his cancer) briefly and said he had to go through some difficult times. He looks fine," Price said. "He may still be a little weak, but he's in good spirits. That's just Coach for you. He's not going to let anything stand in his way or stop him. It's almost normal."

More than two weeks after his last radiation session, Calhoun said he is ready to proceed but still feels the effects of treatment. He has an appointment Friday with Dowsett to assess his progress.

"Overall, I feel better," Calhoun said. "It's slower than I'd like it to be. It's not like all of a sudden the effects are gone. The radiation does beat the hell out of you. Basically, it just takes time."

'Calhoun 3, Cancer 0'

Calhoun, who has led UConn to two NCAA titles and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005, isn't new to the diagnosis of cancer. He was treated for prostate cancer in 2003 and skin cancer in 2007.

"He handled it the way I thought he would, in that he didn't let on to anybody that it was bothering him or that it was any kind of inconvenience," said UConn associate head coach George Blaney, Calhoun's close friend and golf buddy. "He came in to the office every day. He never wants to give in to anything. That's the great thing about him.

"This probably isn't funny, but we've been fooling around with it, saying, 'Calhoun 3, Cancer 0 — and it's not a fair fight.' "

The most recent battle began as soon as Calhoun realized he was dealing with something worse than an upper respiratory infection brought on by the end of another season. After telling his doctors the growth had increased in size, a biopsy was performed April 24. Jeffrey Spiro, co-director of the Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Cancer Team at the UConn Health Center, operated without Calhoun's condition becoming public knowledge, but it was obvious radiation treatments would change that.

Spiro said it is impossible to be certain of the origin of the lump near Calhoun's jaw line, but it most likely was related to his previous episode of skin cancer.

Calhoun and Spiro held a news conference May 30 to get word out that Calhoun's summer would be different. Calhoun calls it "staying ahead of the story." Even though a private parking spot was arranged, a rear entrance was used and Calhoun went straight to his treatments without sitting in a waiting room, his daily presence at the Health Center would have led to wild speculation in a state obsessed with college basketball.

And Calhoun knew his absence from the summer camp circuit would be used against him in recruiting unless he explained the situation. He did attend the Nike LeBron James Skill Academy in Akron, Ohio, and was able to evaluate several top recruits when he held a two-day elite camp in early August on the UConn campus.

"I'm not going to let this beat me," Calhoun said after his 23rd treatment July 25. "I don't want to be the guy with the most victories in the graveyard, the guy with the most money in the graveyard. I just don't want to be in the graveyard. Eventually, like everyone else, my time will come. But the way I feel about my family and the way I feel about my life, the way I feel about a lot of things that I can still do, and the joy I get out of living … I'm not willing to give any of that up."

'A Fight to Stay Positive'

Beginning June 24, Calhoun awoke to his alarm clock at 5:30 a.m. every weekday, knowing the 56-mile drive from his home in Pomfret, Conn., to Farmington was ahead. Although family members offered — then begged — to ride along, Calhoun made almost all the trips alone, accompanied only by his thoughts.

On days when he departed from his shoreline summer home in Madison, Conn., the drive was longer. But he was never late for his 7:30 a.m. appointment.

At every treatment session, he was greeted by a UConn Huskies flag hanging in the hallway of the radiation department.

According to Dowsett, this type of cancer recurs in about a third of all patients. Following up surgery with radiation therapy cuts that risk by about 5%, he said. Calhoun is cancer-free but faces periodic exams for three years.

"If you get past one (year) you're in good shape," Dowsett said. "If you get past two, you're in great shape. Get past three and basically you're done with this kind of thing. There is an unknown, but we all have unknowns."

On April 6 in San Antonio, Calhoun was presented with the Coaches vs. Cancer Champion Award for 2008. The honor goes to a college basketball coach who "has shown dedication and devotion to the American Cancer Society's fight" against the disease. On June 8, he participated in his second cancer challenge bike ride in Connecticut. He didn't log 50 miles as he had the year before, but he did ride 31.

During his radiation treatments, it wasn't unusual to see Calhoun's $4,000 Duratec racing bike strapped to the back of his Ford Expedition. He maintained his workout regimen by biking 16 to 18 miles several days after his morning treatment. He also hit the golf course a few times.

"He's the kind of guy that who, if he can't exercise, he doesn't do well psychologically," Dowsett said.

His friends say Calhoun has been deeply touched by strangers who approach him in public, hug him and wish him well.

"I'm a private person, and when we were first dealing with this, I didn't want Jim to go public," Pat Calhoun said. "But if just one person listened and is helped by this, then it makes it worthwhile."

Driving to his office after treatment No. 23, Calhoun said hearing this cancer diagnosis was scarier than the first two "because I didn't really know what I was dealing with." This time, he said, the battle was "a fight to stay positive."

"The lesson is that we're all vulnerable," he said. "We have a responsibility to take care of ourselves and to take care of our families. How we do that is to really, really, really listen to our bodies and take care of our bodies. Pat and I have worked exceptionally hard to create the life we wanted. It would be wrong not to have a chance to enjoy it."