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Winning College Basketball Coach Pat Summitt Diagnosed with Dementia

Pat Summitt Cutting Basketball Net

Pat Summitt, coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team, and the winningest college basketball coach in history, has been diagnosed with dementia, a symptom of early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Not since the death of former NC State coaching great Jim Valvano has the world of college sports been so rocked by such disturbing news.

Like her former colleague Valvano, who died of bone cancer in 1993, Summitt is staring down her diagnosis with the determination of a competitor who refuses to succumb to the limitations of her own body. Her response to a doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where she learned of her condition, and was advised to retire was, "Do you have any idea who you're dealing with?" You almost expect a question like that from the woman who has won more college basketball games than any other coach of a men's or women's team.

Not only is Summitt not going to retire, she's going to stay at her post as head coach of the Lady Vols. Of course, she'll have her dedicated staff to help her out should things get tough. But, Summitt's reputation as a fighter means that she won't cave in to adversity.

Summitt's first indication that something was amiss came about a year ago when she admitted to feeling "something different" and that she "sometimes [drew] blanks when it came to certain game strategies. Her feelings lead her to the Mayo Clinic, where her worst fears were confirmed with "mild but distinct signs of early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type." Summitt originally thought her symptoms were brought on by medication she takes to control her rheumatoid arthritis. She could not have been more wrong.

While those around her are struggling to deal with her shocking diagnosis, Summitt exhibits a demeanour of "business as usual." To make up for her memory shortfalls, she has been reading avidly, working math problems and using her iPad to spend hours working puzzles to improve her cognition. Her decision to go public about her condition is an inspiration to those around her, and to the millions of Americans and Canadians who suffer with this debilitating disease. Pat Summitt is an inspiration to us all.

To read more of her story, click this link.

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