Grieving her daddy’s death and fighting lung cancer, Southern Miss’ coach managed a specifying upset

In 2017, Joye Lee-McNelis started composing her obituary.

Where she was born. In the southern Mississippi neighborhood of Leetown.

Preceded in death by. Then a blank area, not understanding if she would pass away before her moms and dads.

A note of thanks to her household, to the gamers she had actually coached, to the personnels she had actually dealt with and the administrations she had actually worked for.

McNelis had actually been identified with phase 4 lung cancer. While considering her death, she concentrated on how her life would be kept in mind. Her spouse, Dennis, believed she was insane. She assured him she wasn’t worried about the act of passing away. “I simply wish to prepare all of it out,” she informed him. “There’s no requirement having you and our kids stressing over it.” She desired it to seem like an event.

McNelis is now 61 and in her 20th season as Southern Mississippi’s head coach. She hasn’t recalled at what she composed. However one afternoon previously this fall, McNelis and her daddy, Louis, sat outside on her outdoor patio speaking about their potential funeral services. Louis, 87, had Parkinson’s illness and heart disease. Every artery in his heart had actually been bypassed. McNelis, on the other hand, remained in the middle of a 3rd battle with lung cancer. Her 2nd was available in late 2020. Having actually been identified once again in August, this time, for the very first time, she was going through chemotherapy.

They spoke about tombstones. McNelis’ moms and dads had actually currently bought and established theirs. McNelis recognized she most likely needs to purchase hers too, simply to be prepared.

Their discussion turned to music. When she composed her obituary 6 years previously, she wrote down tunes she desired sung at her funeral service. “I might pass away before you, and you require to understand what my tunes are going to be,” she informed him. There was one on both of their lists: “What a Buddy We Have in Jesus.”

The tune is an old gospel hymn. Religious beliefs is amongst the threads that go through the McNelises. “There’s 2 things in our household,” she states, “which is relying on God and basketball.”

McNelis matured on a farm in southern Mississippi. She found out to drawback a trailer and to bottle-feed calves. Louis, who listened to ministers on cassette tapes every night, informed her if she wished to leave doing deal with their land, she might find out to shoot baskets on the dirt court the household had actually marked out on yard. However before she might take any jumpers, McNelis needed to run the household’s cows off the court and shovel the manure they left.

On Nov. 24, a couple of weeks after their outdoor patio discussion, Louis passed away. McNelis states, “Things went south” the previous night. His breathing was labored up until it stopped. McNelis’ daddy was her hero. “My puppy love as a kid,” she states. After maturing in Leetown and starring at Southern Miss as a gamer, she went back to the location twenty years ago to coach closer to household.

The Monday after his death, in neighboring Picayune, his funeral service was held at Lee’s Chapel # 2 Baptist Church. Her 4th chemotherapy session was arranged for the next day. Southern Miss’ match versus then-No. 19 Ole Miss loomed that Saturday. However her own battle, and her group’s preparations, might wait. She eulogized him and heard their tune.

Have trials and temptations?
Exists problem anywhere?
We must never ever be dissuaded;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

McNelis hopes that her newest chemotherapy session will be her last. To handle her most current bout of phase 4, the treatments have actually happened every 3 weeks because late September, with each lasting around 2 hours. The impacts stick around a lot longer than that. After her very first treatment, she was a “ill feline” for 2 weeks. She felt the second’s effect for 9 days. On Day 8, she began feeling much better following her 3rd. 6 days after her 4th session, she lastly seemed like she would have a “great day.”

It’s the queasiness and tiredness that weigh on her. “When I seem like I can’t get my avoid the pillow,” she states. When she gets actually exhausted, she in some cases tosses up.

Throughout all of it McNelis has actually been durable. She gets up every day. She states a prayer in bed and checks out devotions with her coffee. If she’s able, she makes her method to practice or a video game. That’s how her daddy would have desired her to manage this season. Around the health club. With her group. Mentor, video game preparation, discovering wrinkles the Golden Eagles can assault. When McNelis missed out on Southern Miss’ contest versus Valparaiso on Nov. 21 to visit him in Forrest General Healthcare Facility, where the roofing of Reed Green Coliseum showed up from his medical facility space, he consistently informed her, “This does not make good sense why you’re laying in bed with me and your group’s playing.”

” Papa, it’s okay, I’m where I require to be,” she stated she reacted.

” A great deal of individuals in life believe that the world can not exist if they’re not in it,” she states. “Well, think what? It can occur. My group can continue to run whether I’m here or not. … I’m simply really grateful for individuals who have actually supported me and have actually assisted me through it.”

Back in August, a family pet scan exposed locations of activity in her left lung. Her physicians were amazed when her cancer returned. For more than 2 years, she thought she remained in remission. All her scans had actually returned tidy, up until they didn’t any longer.

McNelis led Southern Miss to a program- and career-defining upset of Ole Miss. (Thanks To Southern Miss Sports)

Like she had actually remained in the past, this summer season McNelis was open with her group about her medical diagnosis. “The something I can guarantee you is I will provide you my finest. I do not understand what my finest is, however I will provide you my finest,” she stated. Throughout the 2020-21 season, that implied in some cases training while connected to a portable oxygen concentrator. She has actually missed out on numerous shootarounds this year to maintain her energy and sleep as much as she can.

” We view Coach battle every day,” senior guard Dominique Davis states. “She’s defending her life, and while she’s doing that she’s still combating to be with us every day.”

McNelis feels contacted us to the sideline. Through basketball, she looks for to teach her gamers about sacrifice. About assertiveness. “To assist them comprehend what it requires to live a dream,” she states. “It is our obligation to assist them see a course.”

She includes: “You have options to be favorable or you have an option to be unfavorable, which’s every day you get up. God is offering you the chance to get up and have another day.” She mentions a Lynn Anderson tune’s analysis of another passage of bible.

I never ever guaranteed you an increased garden.
In addition to the sunlight,
There’s got ta be a little rain at some point.

Saturday, Southern Miss hosted in-state enemy Ole Miss in its lung cancer awareness video game. McNelis’ oncologist, Dr. Bo Hrom, acted as the Golden Eagles’ honorary coach. Leading up to tipoff, McNelis’ ideas about her daddy were sprinkled with concerns associated with the contest– the greatest being, how are we going to score?

Davis, one of 2 senior captains, stated she went into wishing to win particularly terribly. For McNelis. For Southern Miss. “With all of this going on, why not go harder?” Davis states.

The Rebels led by 4 points after the very first quarter and played their challenger even in the 2nd. Ole Miss extended its result in 11 midway through the 3rd, however the Golden Eagles clawed back and routed by just 5 heading into the last 10 minutes. Southern Miss’ defense stiffened in the 4th quarter, enabling simply 10 points. Davis ended up with a game-high 25 points, consisting of an acrobatic layup with 15 seconds to play to supply a three-point lead Southern Miss would not give up. The win kept the Golden Eagles’ unbeaten season alive and marked their very first win over a ranked challenger because the 1999-2000 season.

In the locker space, gamers splashed each other with water. They jumped in bliss. However the event was still mentally hard for McNelis. After every video game, she would call her moms and dads. McNelis FaceTimed with her mom, Nell, who viewed the win on television, as quickly as she got to her phone. However she could not inform her daddy about Davis’ late basket, or freshman guard Morgan Sieper‘s game-high 4 3-pointers, or junior guard Nyla Jean‘s take to seal the win.

The outcome stayed on McNelis’ mind when she woke up at 7 the next early morning. Right now, she asked her spouse, “Is this genuine?”

” Yes, it’s genuine,” he responded.

” It was a historical win and my week was a psychological whirlwind,” she states.

She browsed her home and saw numerous arrangements that had actually been dropped off at her daddy’s wake previously in the week. Like her daddy, McNelis has a fondness for flowers. One protruded, a Cypress plant that had actually been a present, currently embellished with Christmas accessories. She thought of how as a kid, she and her 2 more youthful siblings would enter into the woods with their moms and dads to try to find a Christmas tree.

This fall, while McNelis has actually gotten treatment for cancer a 3rd time, others in the basketball neighborhood have actually provided assistance. DePaul females’s basketball gamers and personnel signed a poster that checked out, “In this fight, no one battles alone.”

Texas coach Vic Schaefer had #McNelisStrong Tee shirts produced his program. Kentucky males’s basketball coach John Calipari, who coached at Memphis while McNelis led the Tigers’ females’s program, tape-recorded a video backing the motion. So too did Ole Miss’ Yolett McPhee-McCuin.

Those are simply a few of the little, yet significant gestures. With the assistance of the school, she’s raising cash for the Health center Client Navigation Program at Forrest General to help other cancer clients in requirement. “I have actually really been blessed,” she states. “There’s a great deal of individuals that have actually respected me.”

McNelis still takes medication. At the end of the month, she’ll go through a scan to see if she requires extra chemotherapy, and if not, how she’ll process. However she stated she isn’t scared of death. She considers the event. And about the hymns she desires dipped into her funeral service.

I’ll value the old rugged cross,
Till my prizes at last I put down;
I will hold on to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it one day for a crown.

( Leading picture of Joye Lee-McNelis: Thanks To Southern Miss Sports)

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