Penn State Basketball: Coaches Versus Cancer Hits Close To Home For Chambers This Year
Pat Chambers took a small pause as he spoke outside the Penn State golf course on Friday afternoon.
"I lost my brother two months ago to lung cancer," Chambers said only minutes from his tee-time at the Coaches Versus Cancer golf tournament.
"We found out about it towards the end of the season," he said. "It was a very difficult time for all of us. The driving back and forth to Philadelphia and to just be there for your brother. So for the first time in my life, you've always had acquaintances, distant cousins, stuff like that, who have been struck by this deadly disease, but now it hit you at home. One of your older brothers. It has been a trying time."
Chambers -- like many people -- has been fully aware of the power of cancer and its ability to take hold of life and often never let go. But the feeling of someone close to you battling the disease brings with it a whole new range of emotions. There are questions with no answers and a helplessness that can only be overcome with the support of friends and family. Even then it only softens the pain and concern.
Not long after a doctors' appointment for what he believed to be pneumonia, Gregory Michael Chambers passed away on March 18 at the age of 60.
A day later, Penn State would go on to win its first-round game in the CBI Tournament. Those working within the program knew of Chambers' brother's battle with cancer, but word never left the hallways of the Bryce Jordan Center. It was never an excuse, it was never a topic of conversation in the public forum. Chambers himself never showed signs of anything other than his patented positive and focused energy following the game. If he ever let it show while his brother was still fighting his illness, it was never more obvious than the rigors of Big Ten play.
But even the most positive of men are still prone to moments of weakness, and as Chambers prepared for an event that would bring his loss to the forefront, a little reading did something to restore his faith in the positivity that is a tenet of his program.
"I saw a study from John's Hopkins the other day that one of the remedies (of hard times) is not only to eat well and stay in shape, but to laugh and have fun and to keep your mind clear of any negativity and any doubts," Chambers said. "I think I needed to see something like that going into last night and going into today. I feel like he knows I'm here for him and I'm putting forth more of an effort. That's where I am today."
While Chambers kept the news quiet and out of public until Friday, he has found at least some comfort in talking with senior guard DJ Newbill whose mother passed away from cancer in 2012. Following her death, Chambers and the team drove to Philadelphia for the funeral and to support Newbill and in some small way Newbill has been able to return the favor.
"As you guys know, DJ and I have a really close relationship," Chambers said. "Every since his mom passed with cancer, I wanted to be his father figure. His father lives in Chicago and he doesn't really have anybody here so we wanted to take him in. This has definitely brought us closer together, going through something like this isn't easy, sometimes you can't talk about it."
"But I feel like the relationship we have now we can talk about anything, talk about our feelings, talking about our emotions, talking about what we're going through and how we can get through it. And how we can make peace with everything and understand why. I think that's the biggest question to caregivers is "why?" Why is it happening to me why, is it happening to him, why is it happening to his wife? Why did it happen to DJ and his family? So I think we have an open line of communication like that and it can only be therapeutic and helpful."
But after a cold and cloudy morning the sun and clouds cleared up and like he is rain or shine, Chambers was a beacon of positive energy as he worked his way across the golf course. There will be good days and there will be bad days, but Chambers will try his hardest to make them the best days they can be.
And that's something any brother would be proud of.