Heisman Trophy watches spouse coach basketball
JACKSON – When Bogue Chitto girls basketball coach Mickey Myerslooked uo toward the stands Monday afternoon, he saw his HeismanTrophy seated in the top row of a middle section in the cavernousMississippi Coliseum. His wife, Karen, was wearing blue andnibbling popcorn, a contented smile on her face.
Coach Myers has proudly proclaimed his deep love for Karen atBogue Chitto athletic banquets. “When I married my wife, I feltlike I had won the Heisman Trophy.”
Thirteen years and three children later, Myers still adores hiswife. Their bond has grown much stronger. Karen’s bout with cancerover the last five months is a love story in itself. It’s a storyabout family, determination, spiritual strength and eternal faithin God.
After Monday’s victory over Ingomar in the opening round of theClass 1A State Tournament, Coach Myers held his youngest daughter,4-year-old Brooke. She wore a Bogue Chitto cheerleader outfit andher eyes sparkled with excitement.
Karen stood next to her husband and squeezed his hand. Theyenjoyed the moment. Her long climb back to physical health has beendifficult. Originally diagnosed with a rare form of esophaguscancer, Karen has been through numerous chemotherapy sessions atOschner’s Medical Center in New Orleans. In January, she underwentan 11-hour surgical procedure to remove her stomach.
The original diagnosis projected a 50 percent recovery rate.Later diagnosed with a type of gastro cancer, the numbers didn’tchange much.
“I told Karen she was going to improve the percentages,” saidMickey. “I knew God would give me more than 13 years with mywife.”
The outpouring of prayers, emotional and financial support forthe Myers family has been overwhelming. Residents of Lincoln Countyand the surrounding area have responded to their needs. Teacherseven donated their sick leave to help support the family.
Coaching, the wins and the losses, became secondary. “Life takeson a whole new perspective when your wife is sick,” said Mickey.”Basketball doesn’t seem nearly as important.”
Myers, in his seventh year at the helm of Bogue Chitto’s Lady’Cats, loves to coach and loves to win. The program is one of thebest, one of the most successful in Mississippi.
Karen came first. Mickey knew he would be spending numerous daysaway from school. When they weren’t in New Orleans for chemotreatments, Karen would need to be resting and recovering under hiscare at home.
What would become of the Lady ‘Cats?
Mickey, 41, is part of a close-knit family, all invoved in theeducational field. His sister, Debbie, teaches at West Lincoln. Hegraduated from West Lincoln in 1978 and played for Coach Jack Case.Nearly two years ago Case retired and the West Lincoln gym wasnamed in his honor.
“I asked my sister if she thought it would be unfair for me toask Coach Case to take my place at Bogue Chitto,” Mickey recalled.”Would it be fair to ask him to coach against his West Lincolnteam? Would it be fair for him to try and beat West Lincoln in JackCase Gymnasium?”
Case accepted the challenge. “I just want to help Mickey out,”was his brief reply. “He’s one of my players.”
Myers missed around seven games during the regular season. Casecoached the girls in practice and even shared the bench with Myerson occasion. They made the best of a difficult situation.
“I really want to thank Coach Case for what he did,” said Myers.”I know it was hard for him.”
The Myers family drew closer during Karen’s extended time in thehospital. Debbie and her younger sister, Nancy, are both married.They took turns living in the Myers house so the three children,Blaine, age 11; Braden, 7; and Brooke; could sleep in their ownbeds and have some kind of normal routine.
Karen’s mother and sister and in-laws also helped out. Thesurgery has been declared a success. Chemotherapy and radiumtreatments must continue to make sure the cancer remains inremission.
Starting March 18, Karen will undergo five consecutive weeks,five days at a time, of chemo and radium therapy. She said sheenjoys coming to the basketball games.
“The games give me a chance to get my mind off thosetreatments,” said Karen. “I don’t know how I’m going to feel whenthey start. This (illness) makes my children stronger, betterpeople.”
Coach Myers said the challenge Karen faces has changed the livesof people they know. “My brother-in-law gave up tobacco.”
For extra strength, Mickey calls on the Lord. “I have to bestrong for my wife. I have to respond. My wife needs me.”
Recalling a conversation with a basketball fan and friend,Mickey said, “Coach, you know we are praying for your wife but weare praying for you, too.”
Mickey draws strength from Karen, too. “Never once has sheasked, ‘Why me?”’
Through all of this turmoil and pain, the marriage bond hasgrown stronger. “As parents, we pray for good health so we canraise our children,” said Mickey. “Nobody loves our kids as much aswe do.”