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Coaching With Cancer

March 2, 2014, 10:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Coaching With Cancer
ABERDEEN, SD -

Cancer is a word no one wants to hear, but good can come of it too. At least that's what Abredeen coach Dawn Seiler says.

The Aberdeen Central girl’s basketball coach missed part of the season as she battled the disease but seems to be coming out on top as the season ends.

This year's team can't boast a winning record, but its coach is nonetheless thankful.

"Just coming back to be part of this team's season meant a lot to me," Seiler said.

Seiler wasn't able to be around when the season started. A battle with cancer that started last summer kept her from working full time until after Christmas.

"And you can throw out all the athletic clichés that you want about work ethic and toughness and all those kinds of things and I really had to walk my talk. All those speeches I gave in the locker room and all those things I talked to kids about, you know, I had to make sure that I was doing on a daily basis to get through that," Seiler said.

It all started last July when she was working in her yard and her arm broke. Doctors discovered a cancerous tumor which had made the bone weak.

"I mean basically it was fear at the beginning. I mean cancer is a big deal and you don't know," sophomore Brianna Kussler said.

Kussler plays on the basketball team. She says it's good to have Seiler back in school and on the sidelines. Seiler says the team has been crucial to her recovery.

"There wasn't a day that went by that I didn't receive a visit or cards or, you know, just a text or an e-mail from somebody that was involved in the basketball community. So it really gave me something to look forward to," Seiler said.

After four surgeries, chemo and now radiation, Seiler returned. She was able to work part time toward the beginning of the season.

She was known as a tough coach before the cancer. Kusler says that hasn't changed.

"Absolutely not, she's always been strong and doesn't show any sort of difference from where she was," Kusler said.

"I don't know if it's made me any different but it's certainly made me more appreciative," Seiler said.

Seiler has responded well to treatments and says she expects to be and remain cancer-free when they're done.

But it's not just her health. She's just as thankful, if not more so, for the support she's received. This year's players and their families helped. Players from years ago, Seiler says, did as well.

"It was really humbling to be part of that whole thing and to know that we have a team. Even though some of those kids graduated 25 years ago, we really still are a team," Seiler said.

Seiler doesn't want this year's squad to be defined by her battle with cancer, but she does want to recognize how they helped her in the middle of it.

"It doesn't define me. It's something that I live with. And I think it was important to show our kids that and the kids have reached out to me and hopefully I've been able to do the same for them. But it's been an experience and it hasn't been a bad experience. It's been something that we've had to go through together," Seiler said.

Without even looking at wins and losses, Seiler calls this team a winning one. She asks for 110 percent from them. In ways, they've given her more.

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