LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — 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 this spring.
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 tested.
"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.