Anyone who cares about basketball in Utah knows Dave Rose is a winner. After all, he has a 159-45 win-loss record as head coach of the BYU men's basketball team. He's been named Coach of the Year by the Mountain West Conference three times. But maybe some have forgotten—since his dramatic diagnosis in 2009—that he is also a pancreatic cancer survivor.
"I've found in the last two years, talking to hundreds of people, that everyone's cancer story is unique to them," he says. "Mine is pretty rare."
In the summer of 2009, Rose began feeling so lightheaded on a flight from California to Las Vegas that he couldn't sit up. Paramedics took him off the plane and straight to the hospital, where doctors removed a large tumor that had spread to his spleen from the tail of his pancreas. Pathology reports showed it was cancerous.
After Dave had recovered enough from surgery, he was airlifted to Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), where further tests revealed more specific results: a neuroendocrine tumor, an extremely rare form of pancreatic cancer—and the only form that can be successfully treated.
"It was a lucky thing for my long-term prognosis. It's what they call a slow-growing, indolent tumor," he says. "Still, because the cancer had spread to my spleen and some nearby lymph nodes, I will never be considered 'cured.'
"Dr. Scaife calls me NED, and she says I'm lucky to be him," Rose adds. "NED means 'no evidence of disease.' That's what I'm hoping for every six months when I come in for a MRI scan. So far, so good." Rose's oncologist is Courtney Scaife, MD, a member of HCI's Gastrointestinal Cancers Program.
Rose says that living with cancer has made him "way more appreciative of everything," including his family, his job, where he lives, and what he does. "There's not a day that goes by that I don't feel fortunate that I get to do what I'm going to do that day."
Because of the challenges he has faced with this disease, Rose finds he is much more aware of other people's challenges. Even though he and his wife, Cheryl, worked with the Children with Cancer Christmas Foundation (a group that provides Christmas presents and ongoing support groups for families who have children with cancer) for years before, he's more aware of how cancer affects everyone. "Parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters—cancer affects the whole family, and then some."
"It's hard to be positive when you're dealing with pancreatic cancer," Rose says. "Sometimes the numbers get so depressing that it can affect your approach, but I think the most important thing is to live with hope."
Learn more about pancreatic cancer in our cancer types and topics, or visit our Gastrointestinal Cancer Program webpages.