Arizona State head coach Missy Farr-Kaye battles cancer a third time


Missy Farr-Kaye stood in the media room four years ago after the NCAA Women’s Championship and pointed toward the gray T-shirt she’d put on over her uniform to celebrate Arizona State’s latest national title.

“I’m a scar roadmap,” she said, referring to the 15 surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy she’d endured as a two-time breast cancer survivor.

Farr-Kaye’s sister, Heather, died of breast cancer at age 28, and Missy was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 30 and again at age 40. Last November, at age 53, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Her dad battled colon cancer too.

Just before Thanksgiving, Farr-Kaye’s three sons dropped her at the hospital door for surgery – to remove the mass and her appendix – and picked her up three days later. COVID-19 kept her from having any visitors. That was hard, she said, but her nurses were angels.

“It looks like I’m going to keep my hair,” said Farr-Kaye, who was at home, hooked up to an IV when she answered the phone.

Farr-Kaye began chemotherapy on Dec. 28 and will be on a 14-day cycle. Right now it’s looking like one week at home, and one week at work. The treatments are scheduled to end in mid-April, just in time for the NCAA postseason. She’s battling through the side effects of chemo, including neuropathy and nausea, with the help of Netflix and sports.

Doctors caught the cancer early and believe she will be cancer-free following treatment. Farr-Kaye teared up on the phone when talking about her sons, who range in age from 17 to 27.

“That look of fear in your child’s eyes, even when they’re not children anymore,” she said, “is tough to take.”

Farr-Kaye will rely heavily on her old teammate at ASU, associate head coach Michelle Estill, the 1991 LPGA Rolex Rookie of the Year. Estill returned to her alma mater to coach alongside Farr-Kaye in the months before ASU won the 2017 NCAA title.

With the Sun Devils hosting this year’s NCAA Championship at Grayhawk Golf Club in May, a delayed opportunity given that COVID canceled the 2020 championship, there are plenty of reasons to expect inspired play out of ASU this spring.

“We’re done sitting around,” said Estill of the Pac-12 returning to competition later this month.

Farr-Kaye views coaching as a calling rather a job. The COVID-19 pandemic has been life-changing and perspective-shifting for everyone. Farr-Kaye’s most recent cancer diagnosis brought the Sun Devils even closer.

“Life isn’t always fair, and it doesn’t always make sense,” said Farr-Kaye. “I want to prepare them for life. I feel that’s part of my purpose in why I coach.”

The culture Farr-Kaye builds at ASU, Estill noted, is centered around a family atmosphere. Every player from last year’s roster returned this spring, including fifth-year senior Olivia Mehaffey.

“We cried together and then we pulled ourselves up because coach is such a role model and leader,” said Estill.

“The love we have for each other really shines in times like this.”

 





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