McCafferys' fight against cancer centers on AYA program

Rick Brown

CHICAGO — Fran McCaffery has a new gameplan. And he thinks it’s a winner.

The Iowa men’s basketball coach and his wife, Margaret, hosted their fourth annual Coaches vs. Cancer fundraiser Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

“When we started this, we never realized that our son would end up having cancer,” McCaffery said during an appearance at Big Ten basketball media day Thursday. “And that, in a way, created a different level of awareness for our event.”

Patrick McCaffery, now a high school freshman, was diagnosed with a malignant tumor on his thyroid in March 2014. He has had several surgeries, and continues to have positive checkups. But one of Patrick’s good friends, Austin “Flash” Schroeder, lost his battle with cancer April 28.

Those two stories have led the McCafferys in a different direction. They are now trying to raise money for the Adolescent and Young Adult program at the University of Iowa.

“We’re really excited about that, to remember Austin Schroeder, and out of respect to Patrick, to try to help that age group,” said McCaffery, who lost both his parents to cancer. “Because for whatever reason, they respond differently to research. You would think we’ll treat them as kids, we’ll treat them as adults, one or the other, what’s going to work. But for whatever reason, that age group does not respond the same way. They figured that out and they’re attacking it.”

Beating cancer remains the No. 1 goal for the McCafferys. But the AYA program now has their undivided attention.

“Being at the hospital when Austin passed away, and to hear them say we may be five years out from being able to save him, that’s all the impetus you need to say, “Let’s keep going,’ ” McCaffery said. “We’ve got to shorten that time for other people. We’re going to save as many as we can.”

The Coaches vs. Cancer event raised $133,000 last year. McCaffery’s goal this year is to reach $200,000.

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