As reported by the Hartford Courant, May 31, 2008.

Calhoun Called Cancer Free After New Scare

By Dom Amore

STORRS - Jim Calhoun got the news at the end of April. That terrifying word had entered his life a third time.

"I was driving home, and starting to put thoughts together about my family," Calhoun said, "and you always think of the worst scenario. You never think of the best-case scenario when you're by yourself. I don't know if scared is the right word ... but my first thought was, 'OK, how are we going to defeat this?'"

Calhoun, UConn's two-time national champion and Hall of Fame basketball coach, is headstrong and combative, and all the signs indicate he is still undefeated against cancer.

Calhoun revealed on Friday at Gampel Pavilion that tests found a cancerous mass in his neck. Surgery on May 6 at the UConn Health Center in Farmington removed the entire mass, along with 37 lymph nodes that were found to be cancer free, and part of a salivary gland.

Calhoun will undergo six weeks of radiation beginning June 24 to minimize the chance of recurrence, and expects to resume coaching the Huskies on schedule next fall. It will be his 23rd season at UConn.

Calhoun, 66, who was successfully treated for prostate cancer in 2003 and skin cancer in 2007, again used the opportunity to urge people to get regular examinations.

"The solution to these things is not to try to deny there's a problem, but step up and fight it, deal with it," Calhoun said. "It's your body, you only get one, and you have to take care of it."

Calhoun and his wife, Pat, both lost parents at early ages to heart disease, and with their commitment to that cause, the cardiology center at UConn Health Center is named for them. He also supports activities to raise money and awareness for cancer, juvenile diabetes and autism.

Calhoun had been feeling ill for a time and discovered an enlarging lump on the right side of his neck, near the jaw line and also near where he had squamous cell skin cancer removed from his cheek last year. He had a needle biopsy on April 24.

"I don't even like saying that," he said. "That was the worst part of it."

The biopsy revealed more squamous cell cancer, of which there are about 250,000 new cases a year in the United States and which was likely related to Calhoun's prior skin cancer. Tests revealed no other areas of concern.

"I told him, 'There is nothing here that can't be cured,'" said Dr. Jeffrey Spiro, who performed the surgery on Calhoun. "I certainly don't sugarcoat things, but when it's something that's curable, I try to communicate with the patient on that basis."

Calhoun said he felt reassured by Spiro's prognosis, and got to "fighting," a word he used about a dozen times in the 60-minute press conference.

Calhoun said he and the university chose to keep the situation private until all the information was known.

Pat Calhoun was in California Friday to see a recital by one of their six grandchildren. Calhoun appeared fit and well at the press conference, the scar visible on his neck.

"This happened quick, from feeling lousy to now where it's healing," he said. "This was aggressive [cancer], trust me. ... I have one more step to go. I feel much better, thank God."

Calhoun's radiation treatment, which was called a precaution, will stretch into early August. Calhoun will skip the Nike Peach Jam AAU tournament in South Carolina in July, but hopes to do many of his planned summer activities, at least on weekends. He will have to stay in or close to Connecticut.

"The effects of it will, probably toward the end of the treatment, make him tired," Spiro said, "so he may not want to do much running around, even on weekends, for a while."

By the time basketball practice begins in October, Calhoun figures to be fully recovered and back to his old self. His aggressive personality plays to his advantage in fighting illness, Calhoun said. He simply won't be stopped or sidetracked.

"The things that bring me so much joy — spending time with my family, being involved with my children and grandchildren's lives, having a job that I love and enjoy coming in to work every day, watching Ray [Allen] and Rip [Hamilton] go against each other — I didn't want to lose any of that," Calhoun said. "People who know me know that I was going to go at this head on, fight it. It wasn't going to beat me."