Retired coach battles cancer with right mental attitude

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Updated: 11/05/2012 10:56 pm

RENO, Nev. (KRNV & -- Former McQueen head football coach Ken Dalton brought the Lancers to six state championships.

Now retired, he's up against the toughest opponent of his life.

"Always puts a smile on your face just to see him," former Lancer Joanne Terranova says.

Friends say Dalton smile brightens up a room.

"It's contagious you know when you see him and he's smiling at you. Ken's got the greatest smile in the world so when he smiles at you and he gets that little sideways smirk that he will get you just know he's so genuine," friend Ken Cass says.

Dalton coached for 40-years and spent over half of those years at McQueen High School.

"He's almost like a story book character that everyone loves, and everyone's going to always remember him," Terranova says.

For over a year coach has been battling lung cancer even though he's never smoked a day in his life.

In January he had surgery and they removed the top right lobe of his lung.

Half way through radiation another tumor popped up this time bigger and terminal.

"We're preparing ourselves that we're not going to be scared. We're going to move on and everything this is going to be a very positive thing. And who knows, Christ, I might be here ten years from now, I might be here ten days from now," Dalton says.

For now a pain pump is minimizing his pain.

He and his wife and best friend Patty have been married 44-years.

Always by his side, she was there for nearly every football game and now as he battles cancer.

"We are partners, forever and it's just something that I love to do and want to do," Patty Dalton says.

What a better partner by your side than one who can relate.

Patty was diagnosed with breast cancer and has been cancer free for 14years.

"He took care of me when I had my cancer and now it's my turn to take care of him while he has his," Patty Dalton says.

These two are taking each day at a time with what they call "the right mental attitude."

"It's weird to say, but sometimes cancer be a gift because it gives you a different perspective on life," Patty Dalton says.

"Just have no choice. You either go home, get ready to die, or you can go home and try to get better and I plan on being around a little while," Dalton says.

Friends, family, and loved ones have learned to cope with a coach's diagnosis something no one was ready for.

Terranova, a former Wolf Pack soccer player and McQueen grad has known coach Dalton her whole life.

"Just unbelievable. It's hard to think that someone like Coach Dalton isn't going to be here forever," Terranova says.

McQueen head Coach Jim Snelling coached under Dalton until his retirement.

Dalton's passion for life and the game left a lasting impression on Coach Snelling.

His leadership continues to teach Snelling life lessons.

"Take a positive approach to things and do what we can do and control what we can control," Coach Snelling says.

McQueen's football stadium has be renamed after Coach Dalton and this football season coach was inducted into McQueen's Hall of Fame.

Former Wolf Pack football kicker Anthony Martinez won a state championship with coach Dalton in 2008, coach's last season.

"The way he went out was the way anybody wants to go out, winning a state championship," Martinez says.

Martinez says he can't picture coach finishing his career any other way.

"He was way more than a coach to all of us," Martinez says.

Coach and Patty are very close with their three children and grandchildren though none of them live in Reno they talk everyday.

Patty and Ken say the family copes by talking and they are all finally in a good place.

"Between our friends, and our family, and our faith, and our football we will make it," Dalton says.

There you have it for coach that's all he needs.

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rddc1947 - 11/6/2012 8:22 AM
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It is alway's sad to read someone has cancer & someone so nice it hurt's. I sincerely hope he goes out of the state of Nevada to get a SECOND OPINION ON HIS CANCER SCREENING'S. My husband had two Cat Scan's & we were told he had lung cancer. We went to Las Vegas to have a Core Biopsy done and it showed he had no cancer cells but a lung illness which on a cat scan looks just like lung cancer. After the Core biopsy, we found out he has an illness which is a fungus ball in his lung's and after having another test done which was broncospy with biopsy done, the doctor told me, he couldn't see anything??? Makes one wonder what we have for doctor's. I sincerely hope he goes to California to have a second opinion done, because I have my opinion of doctor's here in Nevada which I beleive just can't get it right. They are not GOD, but too many mis dignoses is just too much for me. God bless your family and good luck.

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