Wins, losses inspire cancer-conquering coach at Norfolk State

Posted at 11:18 PM, Oct 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-26 23:38:20-04

NORFOLK, Va. - In a standard season, October is the peak of the college volleyball schedule.

"It's absolutely the strangest thing ever for me," admitted Norfolk State University head volleyball coach Kathy Bullock.

With the pandemic pausing fall sports seasons, NSU's Gill Gymnasium sits vacant this October - only hosting practices. But Bullock will not allow the empty feeling to bring her down. Not this month, not this year.

"I automatically take everything by the horns - whatever it is," Bullock, in her second season at the helm of the Spartans, said. "Because nothing is harder than cancer."

18 year ago, it was October - Breast Cancer Awareness Month - when Bullock, at the age of 37, began her own battle against breast cancer.

"[The doctors] told me if I didn't have the surgery, I would've been dead in six weeks," she admitted during an interview with News 3 Sports Director Adam Winkler.

Bullock had a mastectomy within days of her diagnosis, and she's been cancer-free since. She was helped by catching it early, and also aided by her biggest fan.

"My mom was the strongest woman I know," Bullock revealed. "She was everybody's mom. When I received my diagnosis, she said we're not giving up on anything - we're going to do whatever we need to do."

But cancer can come for anyone, even the strong and the selfless. Coach Bullock's mother succumbed to breast cancer last year - also in October.

"It just changed my world," Kathy admitted. "It made me know: whatever I want to accomplish in my life - I need to do it, because you have no idea when it's going to be your last day."

So now, every day - but especially those this month, this year - have new meaning for Coach Bullock.

"I'm doing everything I can to carry on her legacy," she noted. "I'm just trying to step in her shoes and, even more, be the rock for everybody."

The gym might be empty this October, but Kathy Bullock is not alone. She's carrying the memory of both her breast cancer battle - and that of her mother's.