As the University of South Carolina women's basketball team make a run for a SEC title, they are coming together to support one of their own in a very personal fight.
Assistant coach Nikki McCray recently discovered she has breast cancer. She decided to share her story with WIS to help others on the same journey and she made it clear, she's facing this disease like any other tough opponent. And she's in it to win it.
"They know me, I'm a competitor -- boom, let's go!" said McCray who doesn't back down from anything, anyone or any challenge.
For McCray, who was a WNBA All-Star, and known as a world class defender, there was only one way to respond to the diagnosis.
"You got to be prepared," she said. "You got to have an attack mentality. So I have an attack mentality and I'm not going to let this disease get the best of me."
Back in November she felt a lump while in the shower.
"I felt something then and I knew it wasn't right and I needed to know," she said.
Within days she had a biopsy, the breast cancer confirmed and a game plan.
"I was 90 percent sure that I was going to lose my hair so I said you know what, I'm not going to deal with it, I did my first round of chemo late December, the following Saturday I cut my hair," she said.
McCray believes she's handling chemo so well because of eating right and exercising but there are rough days.
"I have to have a shot to boost my white blood cells and that shot usually gets me, about 30 minutes after take that shot much my energy is a little low but I don't give into it because I know what to expect, one of the things I've done I've kept a journal so I know my highs and lows again I try to be very proactive," McCray said.
She has a big team of support.
"You know, they are amazing these women are staff is truly amazing and I'm so thankful," she said. "I love them all … bless me every single day and you know when you go through something like this you appreciate them you appreciate a little bit more."
Including a lot of prayer warriors.
"I can't thank and you know my former teammates, everybody for all their prayers, there helping, keep praying please keep doing what you do because it's working for me," she said. "It just lets me know that I'm not in this alone number one I know that God has my back and that I have to continue to stay strong and know that at the end of the day I'm going to come through this, you can't go through something like this by yourself it's a reality check and that's what it's been for me and it's been a reality check for me to get closer to God it's been a reality check for me to inspire others."
And then there are her biggest fans, her husband and their little man who just celebrated his first birthday.
She wants him to know one thing about his mom.
"That his mom is strong that she is a fighter that she's not going to let anything get the best of her," she said. "And when I come home and I walk through that door and I see those brown eyes I know that everything is okay."
Earlier this season, the team surprised McCray on the court with "Team Nikki" T-shirts.
"I really got emotional, try not to talk about it as much because it you know you can overwhelm you," she said.
The emotions are sure to flow again this Sunday when the Gamecocks host a "Think Pink" game in McCray's honor.
"For me I don't want this to just be about me, I want to educate but I want to kids to know that there are first situations in life is more than just basketball," she said.
But when they do hit the court, she wants them focused on what they are trying to do.
"First of all, we want to get to the tournament and win a national championship," she said.
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