Joanne P. McCallie is known by most for the 28 years she spent as a head woman’s college basketball coach. In that time, she celebrated 646 wins, 22 seasons with over 20 wins, 21 NCAA Tournament appearances, and eight conference championships. Most recently, she was the head coach at Duke University and helped the Blue Devils to a 330-107 overall record and earned ACC Coach of the Year in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
While her achievements as ‘Coach P’ will live on the walls of Universities for decades to come, her legacy will also be that of a Melanoma Warrior. She was first diagnosed with Melanoma in 2007 when a spot was removed from her forehead. With this diagnosis she began to further understand and respect the need for a sun-safe lifestyle and started advocating for this amongst her friends, family, colleagues, and her athletes.
Then in 2016 she had a second, more serious diagnosis which resulted in 26 surgical stitches on her back where doctors had removed malignant cells with melanoma. That same year more cells were removed from the right side of her neck. As her early scars had finally started to fade, new ones emerged.
Like many people who share their stories in the hopes of saving lives, Joanne crossed paths with numerous other warriors over the years. Including her athletes, some of whom had experienced skin cancer in their families, and even lost immediate family. As a coach, she had always understood the power and importance of a player’s ‘mental game’. But the mental health of patients, survivors, family was an entirely different mental battle.
She recently released her latest book “Secret Warrior: A Coach and Fighter On and Off the Court”. It’s a memoir of the mental health journey she’s taken through all parts of her life. From the realities and challenges of the sports world, to navigating her personal health and battles with cancer and bipolar disorder. Her recurring theme is this:
FAITH OVER FEAR
Her aim with this book is to reduce the stigma associated with impaired mental health and encourage those suffering from mental health issues to reach out for help. Mental health is a vital part of everyone’s success, but it’s not something that is easy to navigate and manage along. In the book, she offers real direction, experiences and personal stories to teach and reassure those working through the dynamics of their mental and physical health.
“The only way we can be our best selves is to prioritize the health and strength of our minds,” says Joanne.
Joanne’s faith and authenticity have led to many meaningful connections along her journey. One of the most impactful is her friendship with Tracy Callahan of Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation. Together they created Melanoma Awareness Games with Duke University as a way to increase awareness and conduct as many free skin cancer screenings as possible. Protection and early detection make all the difference, and Coach P and Tracy Callahan continue to work together to promote sun-safe habits and get people to the dermatologist! Most recently she volunteered her time for a Coolibar Warrior Photoshoot. All proceeds went to the Polka Dot Mama Foundation!
As she moves away from her coaching career Joanne plans to devote more time to mental health awareness, through her book and directly. As someone who dedicates a lot of their energy to helping and supporting others, we’re grateful for all she does.
To purchase Joanne’s book please visit: https://coachp.org/.
To help her support Polka Dot Mama Foundation, please visit: https://polkadotmama.org/.