Stories of Survival

Surviving Cancer: ‘Whether You Are Behind or Ahead, You’ve Got To Keep Fighting’

Article by Katie Sweet

Tubby SmithTubby Smith, Texas Tech men’s basketball head coach, draws up game plans for a living. He runs offense and defense, day in and day out. His job is to stay one step ahead of the opponent and ultimately win. It’s no shock he took on cancer the same way.

“Your first thought when you hear the word “cancer” – how can I battle it? How can I overcome it?” Smith said.

Coach Smith’s prostate cancer was diagnosed early, and he knew it to be a more treatable form of the disease. Like he had done for so many games in his life, Smith, along with his doctors, set up a winning play. Today, he is cancer-free.

Even prior to his diagnosis, and continuing today, he is an active member of another game – spreading awareness of and advocating for early detection and diagnosis. Smith would like to see us all more involved in our health to catch changes in our bodies earlier.

“Overcoming cancer has made me more aware of my health,” he said. “I live better and eat better and take better care of my body. I’ve been trying to help others by doing [public service announcements]. People need to be involved in their health, so you can tell the doc what’s going on and see if we can do diagnoses earlier. Cancer has affected so many people. You’re going to be affected in some way or fashion by cancer.”

Jim Valvano was also affected by cancer and encouraged all of us to fund research. His determination to see this happen created an organization that has funded more than $150 million in cancer research grants since 1993.

Twenty-two years later, Smith is also reminding us what his old coaching colleague said in his famous ESPY award speechfunding research saves lives.

“We’ve made progress [in cancer research],” Smith said. “We need to support doctors and researchers with whatever they need to eradicate cancer. It could save your children and grandchildren, not just me or you. We need to support them to help others.”

As someone who has been in the basketball world for many years, he always speaks like a coach, even when away from the hardwood. He compares a cancer battle with a fight to win a game. Smith encourages everyone undergoing treatment to take Jim’s “Don’t Give Up . . . Don’t Ever Give Up!”® message and attitude to heart.

“Halftime is the most insignificant score,” he said. “Whether you are ahead or behind, you gotta keep fighting.”

For more information on how you can join in the game to fight cancer, visit Whether it’s through fundraising, spreading awareness or volunteer support, you can be a part of our team. And, we are going for the win!