Southern Miss’ Joye Lee-McNelis to remain coaching despite reoccurring battle with cancer

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Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 5:52 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Southern Miss women’s basketball head coach has announced that her battle with Stage 4 cancer has reoccurred. However, she will still be on the court leading her defending champion Lady Eagles this upcoming season.

According to Southern Miss Athletics, Coach Joye Lee-McNelis announced on Thursday that she will remain with the Lady Eagles this upcoming season despite being re-diagnosed with lung cancer.

“I am truly blessed to have my family and many prayer warriors that have impacted my life in a great way,” said McNelis to USM Athletics. “I believe that with God’s help and His gifts of strength, that I can push through and be an example for many others. It is important to me to demonstrate to my players that life is going to throw us curve balls sometimes, but you’ve always got to show up and hit them. After my diagnosis, I had a conversation with our team and promised them that I would not sell them short and that I plan to be with them every step of the way in the same way they are with me.”

Coach McNelis is entering her 20th season at the helm of the women’s basketball program.

She is coming off her best year as a coach while at USM, with her team being named the 2022-23 Co-Sun Belt Women’s Basketball Regular Season Champions.

It is Coach McNelis’ third battle with adenocarcinoma after doctors originally discovered it in 2017, which ended with the removal of her lungs’ upper left lobe. The second time, it recurred in 2020.

USM Athletics says on Aug. 14, 2023, a PET scan revealed areas of activity in her lung, a reoccurrence of her adenocarcinoma, that is, the same cancer as before, but in a different location.

Southern Miss says Coach McNelis underwent the first of four treatment cycles on Thursday and has “responded well.” All four treatments are being done in Hattiesburg at the Forrest Health Cancer Center.

Coach McNelis asks for prayers and has partnered with the Hospital Patient Navigation Program at Forrest General Hospital to provide assistance to other cancer patients in need.

“As I have gone through this battle with cancer, I have learned about so many other people in our community that have no way to get to their treatments,” said McNelis. “It is important to me that we raise funds to help them in their fight against cancer. I know of a gentleman who is 91 years old who drives one hour to his treatment and returns home. He has no family or anyone else to assist him in his travels and he is not alone in having this problem. That is why the Navigation Program is so dear to my heart. It can benefit these individuals and many others. It is important that we let these cancer patients know that they are not in this fight alone.”

To support Coach McNelis and other cancer patients, click here.

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