Jalie Mitchell Helps Her Mother And Grandmother Fight Breast Cancer
DENTON -- North Texas women's basketball head coach Jalie Mitchell is never alone when she's on the court.
Sitting four rows behind the North Texas bench in the Super Pit are two of the Mean Green's loudest and most passionate fans.
Mitchell's mother and grandmother.
For Mitchell's entire basketball-playing career and for the last nine years as a coach, she has heard and seen these two women support her dream. Traveling all over the country with her, Wannetta Reagan and Ola Reagan have never missed an opportunity to be by Mitchell's side while they scream and holler passionately.
So when Wannetta and Ola were diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago, it was Mitchell who stood by their side and cared for them.
"She is a care taker," said Mitchell's grandmother Ola Reagan. "We call her Dr. Mitchell, because she has always been there to help, support and take care of her family no matter what. She has been so wonderful to us."
In 2011, Mitchell's mother Wannetta Reagan was diagnosed with DCIS breast cancer, a non-invasive cancer in which atypical cells have not yet spread to the surrounding tissue. Following the diagnosis, Wannetta began chemotherapy treatment. Right there by her side to comfort her and work with her and the doctors was the then-assistant Mean Green coach Mitchell, whom nearly every day would make the hour drive south to DeSoto where her mother and grandmother live together.
"I know it might be hard to believe this after you've seen me coach, but I'm the calm one in the family," Mitchell said with a laugh. "My family can be pretty dramatic, and I think my mom was a little nervous and afraid when she was going through the chemo. But I think having reassurance helped her get through a process that's not very fun."
It was a process that soon would pay off as doctors told Wannetta Reagan she was cancer free. It was also a process that five years later would help Mitchell's 75-year-old grandmother beat breast cancer, too.
"My mom and grandmother are inseparable," Mitchell explained. "They are definitely two peas in a pod. So it was very helpful to have my mom, someone who had been through the process, there with my grandmother while she went through her own treatment."
Now the head coach of the Mean Green, Mitchell was back to making daily trips to doctor appointments, surgeries and calling to their home to make sure her grandmother was doing fine. Mitchell only missed one doctor's appointment.
Mitchell, who jokingly claims to be the adult in the family, says she never once saw her grandmother, a widow of a pastor, lose faith. While Ola Reagan stayed overnight in the hospital after two surgeries, Mitchell stayed with her, working with the nurses.
"It's important to have people like Jalie and my mom in your life," Wannetta Reagan said. "People who can help take some of the pain and nerves away and let you know that you're not alone."
Though Mitchell first started playing basketball alone in a gym on Saturday's while she waited for her Duncanville assistant principal father to finish with Saturday school, Mitchell has never really been alone when she's on the court.
From the time Jalie was 6 years old and scored a basket on her own team's hoop, Wannetta and Ola Reagan were there. They were in the stands when Mitchell was a senior at Duncanville High School and played in a championship game just days after being in a horrific car crash. They were there in Wilmington, North Carolina, supporting Mitchell as an assistant coach at UNC Wilmington and they are back in the Super Pit to this day.
"They've always been there for me," Mitchell said. "So when it was my time to be there for them I felt I needed to be there."
Since her mom was diagnosed, Mitchell has been active in taking care of her own health. A persistent person regardless of the circumstance, Mitchell and her family advocate women to check for breast cancer regularly and to get mammograms, because early detection is important.
Saturday, the Mean Green will help raise awareness and money for breast cancer with their annual Play4Kay game, and, prior to the game, Wannetta and Ola Reagan will be honored. North Texas plays FIU at 3 p.m. in the Super Pit.