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V Week 2021 – Curing cancer

Editor’s note: Pam Valvano Strasser was the wife of the late Jim Valvano and is the mother of their three children. She serves as the chairwoman of the V Foundation for Cancer Research and also sits on the board of directors of the Jimmy V Celebrity Golf Classic.

“I want you to tell me something good,” Dick Vitale insisted each time he called to check on my late husband, Jim Valvano, during his cancer treatment. I searched my brain to try to uncover one positive moment experienced over the prior week. Like my husband, Dick Vitale is one of those rare individuals who can sprinkle enthusiasm even during a personal struggle. Viewers instantly witnessed the natural chemistry Jim and Dick shared when they would broadcast games together at ESPN, but few fully grasp the influence Dick and Lorraine Vitale have had on my family.

On March 4, 1993, Dick Vitale introduced Jim as the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the inaugural ESPYS. Jim was in excruciating pain and could barely walk. The image of Dick Vitale and Mike Krzyzewski helping him navigate the steep flight of stairs embodies the power of friendship. They were brought together by a common passion for basketball, but our bonds have strengthened over the near 30 years that have passed.

Jim personally asked Dick and Coach K to serve on the board of directors for The V Foundation to further the mission to cure cancer.

Dick never misses an opportunity to share the essential research that is being funded by The V Foundation. Over the past 17 years, he has hosted a gala in Florida, raising millions for pediatric cancer research. I will never forget when my middle daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer, he regularly sent notes and care packages to lift her spirits. These are only a few of the examples of how Dick has provided hope to people in need.

Lorraine Vitale was the voice I heard on the phone when I learned of Dick’s diagnosis with lymphoma. The myriad of emotions I felt left me speechless. “I love you” was spoken before hanging up, and we made plans to meet for dinner in the coming weeks. Recently, we had a wonderful evening with the Vitales. Listening to Dick brought back vivid memories of Jim. Dick certainly has not slowed down during his treatment, and the desire to work during basketball season fills him with purpose. He is emotional when speaking about the love and support he continues to receive. I know from personal experience how important it is to have a united team surrounding you when you are facing any formidable opponent. I cannot wait to celebrate with Dick when he brings home a victory.

The mission that Jim, Dick and The V Foundation set out for — victory over cancer — is still as important as ever. If you are able, please support cancer research by visiting V.org/donate.

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