July 21, 2013
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - Some days the nausea is so bad that Kim Evans doesn't want to get out of bed. On other days, she can cope well enough to do some work. And on some days, the emotions are so overwhelming that she can't hold back the tears.
Evans, in her 20th year as Auburn's women's golf coach, was diagnosed in early May with ovarian cancer. Last Thursday, at UAB Medical Center, she underwent her third chemotherapy treatment. The chemicals go into her body through a portal in her stomach and in her chest. She will get another treatment Thursday and then get a week off.
"The first three or four days afterward are really bad," Evans said. "Then it sneaks up on you. You can be going pretty well for an hour or two and then it is like 'My gosh, what happened?' Then you have to go lie down or take some medicine that will help counteract whatever side effects you are having."
But even on the worst days, when the waves of nausea seemingly won't stop, Evans marvels at what has happened since she got the terrifying news. Even in the fight of her life, she has seen the real meaning of friendship, loyalty and love.
A flood of friends, co-workers, current players, former players, church members at Auburn United Methodist and Holy Trinity Episcopal, neighbors and more have rallied to her support.
"I'm so blessed and so fortunate to have such an amazing support group through church, work, athletics," Evans said. "The Auburn family we work with and just Auburn people have reached out, and the golf community. I look forward to going to the mailbox every day and getting mail. I love it."
Former Auburn player Danielle Downey, who started last season as a student assistant and ended it as interim head coach, is a frequent visitor. Neighbors bring food. Coaches go out of their way to visit. Current Auburn players help clean her house. And, Evans said, Elvis and Aunt Rita, her beloved standard poodles, have been invaluable companions.
Athletics director Jay Jacobs and senior women's administrator Meredith Jenkins have been strong in their support from the start. At Evans' urging, they hired Andrew Pratt, Tulane's head coach, as Auburn's associate head coach.
"I wanted to be able to hand it to him and say just 'go with it,'" Evans said. "It's been such a huge help to me to know that he is such a great coach and such a great person. I'm so glad he and his wife are here at Auburn. I'm not worried about coaching right now. I know he's doing a fine job. That is huge.
"I don't know if I can ever thank Jay and Meredith enough for helping me get through this to where I can give something you've had for 20 years to somebody and say 'go with it.'"
A steady stream of college coaches have changed from competitors to fierce supporters. Evans has lost her hair to the chemotherapy. Alabama coach Mic Potter, Vanderbilt coach Nick Allen and Georgia coach Josh Brewer have shaved their heads to show their support. Other coaches have visited, texted or called.
"I will get a handful of texts throughout the day from people just checking in," Evans said. "I'm hearing from people from my childhood, from coaches, my family, my friend and neighbors. It's just amazing how much support I have."
Even with all that support, Evans' journey presents the biggest challenge in her life. She approaches it with the same spirit she approached golf as a player and as a coach, but she fights the fear of what is ahead.
"Absolutely," Evans said. "Every day. Somebody told me today that it's not like you are warrior and you are a running. This is not like that. This is about getting through the moment. It's about getting up in the morning and saying 'I don't feel so good, but I have to figure out what I can eat that is good for me to give me a couple of good hours here.'
"You just keep pushing to try to find it. Some days, you don't. Some days, it just doesn't come."
The days that it doesn't come are the hard ones to get through.
"There are some lonely days when I cry," Evans said, "but I have to keep going. I want to handle it well and do it well. I want to be good at my task. My task is to eat and drink and rest and stay as strong and healthy as I can. If I can get through that every day, I'm one step closer to getting rid of this stuff."
Evans says she wants to use her fight to help other women, to spread the word that they shouldn't ignore seemingly minor symptoms. If she is able, on Aug. 17, she will be the starter at a road race in Birmingham to raise money for research at UAB.
"I have so much support and love," Evans said. "I want to help people that don't have this kind of support. There are so many people out there who need help."
Evans came upon a sign at UAB recently that hit home as soon as she saw it. The sign read "Big love brings big miracles."
"And that's the truth," Evans said. "It really is the truth."
Evans tries now to stay strong through the hardest of times and believes that the day will come when her doctor tells her the cancer that invaded her body is gone.
"There's going to be a big party," Evans said. "Everyone is going to be there."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: