Former Kentucky and New Mexico State football coach Hal Mumme said he stubbornly waited until the conclusion of a stressful season to get tested for prostate cancer, despite the advice of team doctors and his cancer-surviving wife that he do it earlier.
With the biopsy on Jan. 9 confirming the worst fears from
earlier blood tests, the coach said Tuesday he considers himself
fortunate that his delay was merely "stupid" rather than deadly.
On Wednesday, Mumme will undergo a procedure at the University
of Kentucky's Markey Cancer Center that doctors believe will stop
the disease before it spreads. Should all go according to plan,
Mumme, who has been unemployed since New Mexico State fired him in
December, can resume his search for a new coaching job as early as
But first, the coach said he wanted to share his story with
hopes that it will inspire other men to get tested more quickly
than he did. He held a news conference Tuesday, flanked by his
daughter, Karen Handel, and Stephen Strup, the UK doctor who will
perform the procedure.
"My first inclination was to tell no one," Mumme said. "After
thinking about it, that probably wasn't an option. Then I decided I
should tell everyone. I'm going to be an advocate for men not doing
what I did and ignore the situation for six months."
Exhausted by what he believed was a virus brought on by working
long hours in the heat, Mumme took two blood tests during the 2008
season. Both showed he had heightened levels of PSA, a protein
found in the prostate that Strup said can signal the possibility of
cancer but also often produces false positives. Only a more
invasive biopsy can be sure.
"I knew I'd been sick, and they thought they'd cured that
part," Mumme said. "I was ready to move on. I didn't really want
to hear about my PSA level or blood test. Pure stupidity. Deep down
inside, you kind of know this isn't normal, but you're kind of
hoping that's what it is"
Strup said the procedure Mumme will undergo involves a robotic
machine that makes its incisions so intricately that it is
considered only minimally invasive, and many patients are able to
leave the hospital the next day.
"It allows you to perform your craft with precision and
excellence," Strup said.
It will be the Mumme family's second experience with cancer
treatment at Markey. Mumme's wife, June, was diagnosed with breast
cancer in 1996. She has since written a book about her experience
and served as a national ambassador for breast cancer issues, a
fact that Mumme says most embarrassed him that he waited to get
"Anybody that's been through that, it gets your attention," he
said. "I probably should have done something faster, but I didn't.
Certainly there was a tremendous amount of political pressure in my
home for me to do something."
Mumme was the head coach at Kentucky from 1997-2000 and his
teams were 20-26. He left amid a recruiting scandal that led to the
football program being sanctioned by the NCAA. He spent the past
four years coaching the Aggies.