PROVO, Utah – Jeff Judkins is all about making people’s lives better – especially after hearing former Brigham Young University basketball player Melanie Pearson Day’s heartbreaking story.
“She was one of the best all around players that I’ve coached here at BYU,” Judkins. the BYU women’s head basketball coach, said.
Day battled game in and game out for the Cougars, and she continues to fight off the court. Day has beaten cancer once, but last year, doctors diagnosed her with stage four terminal breast cancer. They gave her five years to live.
“When I heard about it, it was really sad because she brings so much life and enjoyment to so many people,” Judkins said.
Judkins wanted to reach out in any way he could.
“I first got an email from, it must’ve been her uncle, saying that she had a bucket list, and it was going to the Duke-North Carolina game,” Judkins said.
So Judkins wrote a letter to Duke basketball coach Mike Kryzeweski.
“I’m thinking there’s no way I’m gonna hear back. You know, he’ll blow it off,” Judkins said. “And within a week a get a phone call from his secretary, saying ‘Hey, we received your letter. We read it. We were in tears. We really feel for this young lady, and there’s no problem. We’ll get her tickets to the game.’”
Players and coaches all pitched in to send Day to North Carolina to help her live her dream.
“I was expecting to go to a basketball game and that’s it,” Day said. “Coach K’s secretary calls me and says, ‘Coach K would love for you to come to practice the next day.’ That was pretty incredible, to see Coach K in action and how they run things. After practice we had another talk. I mean, he talked to us for a long time. You know, he didn’t have to do that. He didn’t have to spend any time with us. I mean, just going to the practice in and of itself would’ve been awesome. Because of a connection I had with Carolina, I was able to go to their practice as well, and get a tour of the facilities at both schools, and just meet so many incredible people… I just felt, honestly, like the luckiest person alive.”
“For her to have that experience she’ll never forget, and then her husband will never forget that also,” Judkins said.
Day experienced what she calls a basketball fantasy. Now, she has a message for all.
“Live life as if everyone had five years to live. Would you do things differently? I guarantee you, you would,” Day said. “We don’t know when we’re gonna be taken. We don’t know when it’s our time to go… Live life to the fullest, and (don’t) delay your dreams. When I die, I can still, in spirit, be here with my kids and my husband and my loved ones. Knowing that, that gives me hope, and that gives me the reassurance that everything will be okay. It’ll all work out in the end.”
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