Yvonne “YJean” Whitley has been coaching football at Southern University for decades.
She may wear a sassy outfit instead of a coach’s uniform, but the retired teacher definitely isn’t your ordinary, run-of-the-mill football fan. A longtime Jaguar supporter, YJean can rattle off schedules and players’ stats on any given day. She has also been known to talk to the team, whether offering pointers from her seat in the stadium or to her radio while receiving chemotherapy.
Recently, the 76-year-old attended her first home game at A. W. Mumford Stadium in a year.
“Oh, cancer didn’t stop me from keeping up with the team,” said a matter-of-fact YJean. “Sometimes I even watched the game in the sorority house across from the stadium. I just couldn’t sit in the stands.”
Diagnosed with gynecologic cancer in the spring of 2017, YJean’s treatment plan began with surgery to remove most of the tumor, and subsequent doses of chemotherapy to treat the remainder of the cancer. Thanks to the partnership between Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center and Woman’s Hospital, YJean has been able to receive comprehensive treatment all in one location – at the new Breast & GYN Cancer Pavilion.
YJean credits the care she’s gotten from all around the country, especially from her husband, children, sorority sisters and friends, for helping her keep an upbeat nature and positive outlook, saying she’s had “150 percent support.” Her perspective about the disease mirrors how she views other life events: when one thing goes wrong, it doesn’t mean everything has to change.
“The day I found out I had cancer, I asked God, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ But then I told myself to cut that out,” laughed YJean, coaching herself as she would her favorite football team. “I already know that I have to use what I’ve been given and claim my own victory.”
“Work keeps me active,” said the Baton Rouge High Time Out Room (TOR) moderator and activities coordinator, who was out of the office less than a semester during her cancer treatment at the Breast & GYN Cancer Pavilion. “It’s good for me to focus on something else and let God take control of my health.”
And just as she advises the Jaguar football team about any worthy opponent, YJean goes into each cancer treatment with a positive mindset: “I know to never give up, and to keep playing till the end.”