by Julia Bruemmer

Photo credit: Purdue Exponent

As the leaves fall and temperatures drop, fans are beginning to pack the bleachers, giving life to Mackey Arena once again. But for Terry Kix, director of operations for Purdue Women’s Basketball and a volunteer with Purdue’s Cancer Culture Community program, the tipoff of basketball season marks another milestone as well: the one-year anniversary of when she was diagnosed with stage 3 stomach cancer.

“The diagnosis was a shock,” says Kix, who had run a half marathon three weeks before. Not only was she in great shape, but she also wasn’t a typical age — stomach cancer usually doesn’t present until around age 60. Still, Kix says, “I knew who the opponent was, and prepared a game plan to beat it.”

For many on the women’s basketball team, Kix’s diagnosis was their first encounter with cancer. But the players rallied around her, stitching a quilt with inspirational phrases and visiting her during chemotherapy treatments. Kix, in turn, inspired them, continuing to cheer them on, yell at the referees and even run on the treadmill when she felt up to it.

Throughout her treatment, Kix attacked the disease like a determined athlete, enduring an aggressive regimen of six rounds of chemotherapy, three times a week. Ultimately, she believes this approach is what saved her life. “I worked hard mentally and physically, and never doubted that I would win this battle,” she says.

Now cancer-free, Kix has volunteered to assist Purdue’s Cancer Culture and Community program with events such as its annual colloquium Nov. 7 in Fowler Hall. Titled “Laugh, Think and Cry: The Legacy of Jimmy V’s Last Speech,” the event will commemorate the 20th anniversary of Jimmy Valvano’s inspiring speech at the 1993 ESPY Awards. Kix will share her experiences with cancer before turning the stage over to Valvano’s oldest brother, Nick, former CEO of the V Foundation.

“I am humbled, happy and, most of all, honored to use my experience to help,” says Kix. “I will forever be grateful for the love and support that my team, family, friends and community gave me, and I hope that people who attend Cancer Culture and Community events will be enlightened and uplifted by the power of togetherness that the journey through cancer creates.”