Petro recalls vital support of ND community in cancer fight

Author: Carol C. Bradley

Sharon Drake Petro, Pink Zone, women's basketball

At the annual Pink Zone luncheon Sunday, Feb. 12, pioneer Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Sharon Drake Petro, the featured speaker, recalled the vital support of the Notre Dame community after her cancer diagnosis nearly 30 years ago.

The “Docs in Pink” luncheon, which preceded the annual Women’s Basketball Pink Zone game, is organized by the College of Science to recognize researchers and physicians in the fight against cancer.

At the luncheon, Petro saluted the cooperation of the basketball team, science researchers and local physicians—including some who participated in her care.

“I love the collaboration between the College of Science and the women’s basketball program,” Petro said. “It’s significant for both groups to come together as both groups are striving for excellence in their respective fields. Both are better able to achieve their goals with your support—each and every one of you today cheering on both teams.”

Petro, the first full-time head coach of varsity women’s basketball and women’s tennis when she came to Notre Dame in 1977, became the University’s first woman assistant athletic director before she left in 1986 to pursue a Ph.D. in applied sports psychology. She now owns Head Coaching, a performance-coaching firm.

During her chemotherapy treatment, doctors arranged for a former player who had become a nurse to administer the drugs on a tennis team trip to Los Angeles so the regimen would not be interrupted, and a biology professor went along to supervise the team on the treatment day since Petro had no assistant coach.

“My story is one of many, but it is wrapped in the Notre Dame experience,” she said. “I was surrounded by a caring community who stepped up to the plate when it was needed.”

Haley Scott DeMaria, who survived a Notre Dame swim team bus accident 20 years ago and recovered from paralysis to swim competitively again, told the crowd that her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer just two years before the accident.

“All of our challenges are for all of us to have the opportunity to come together,” she said. “We at Notre Dame have the great benefit of having great scientists and great research and a great community of faith.”

College of Science Dean Greg Crawford, who hosted the luncheon, announced that two related Spin-a-thon events had raised more than $50,000 for the Pink Zone initiative. The funds raised will help uninsured women receive mammograms.