Pat Summit Meets a diagnosis of Dementia Head-On

Iconic lady Volunteer coach Pat Summitt, 59, spoke with Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins — who wrote a biography of Summitt and considers Summitt her best friend.

Summitt learned of her diagnosis of Dementia (Early Onset Alzheimer’s) at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. She nearly punched the first doctor who told her. When a second advised her to immediately retire, Summit said, “Do you know who you’re dealing with?”

Alzheimer’s is devastating and incurable — and that’s about all we know to this point. We typically don’t associate Alzheimer’s with someone her age, but early onset dementia sometimes occurs in those 45+. The road ahead is mostly unknown — how her symptoms might progress, the role stress will play, and how her players might react to all the attention focused on the health of their beloved coach.

The Connecticut coach, Auriemma, Summitt’s chief rival, said, “There is no doubt in my mind that Pat will take on this challenge as she has all others during her Hall of Fame career — head on. I wish her all the best.”

Summit believes with the contributions of her staff, she can continue coaching for years to come. Doctors recommend for people diagnosed with early dementia to get support they need to deal with the news and focus on living life the best they can and making plans for the future and participating in it.

Summitt intends to do just that. She’s given more responsibility to her assistants as a result.

“We have always collaborated on every facet of Lady Vol basketball, and now you will see Holly Warlick, Dean Lockwood and Mickie DeMoss taking on more responsibility as their duties will change significantly,” Summitt wrote in her open letter.

A senior director of constituent services for the Chicago-based Alzheimer’s Association, said that better diagnostics will uncover the condition in its early stages, and will alter most people’s perception of Alzheimer’s patients.

“I think it’s important to remember that while Pat is a basketball coach, the architect of one of the most storied programs in the history of our sport, she is also a mother, and she’s a daughter, and she’s a friend,” Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said in a statement.

“She’s a person who life is happening to. It takes great, great courage to fight health issues; it takes even greater courage to fight them in front of the world.”

Pat Summit is a champion and leader. We wish her the best in her continued fight with Alzheimer’s.

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