EWU coach's wife still in cancer fight
CHENEY — Eastern Washington Coach Paul Wulff will take his football team to Connecticut this weekend, but his heart will be in San Francisco.
That's where his wife Tammy lies in a hospital room, battling brain cancer.
"When I'm at work, I think about her a lot," said Wulff, 34. "I'm not as clear-minded, I guess, as I normally am."
But his time on the football field is a blessing, he said.
"Football, when I'm around it, I truly enjoy the moment," he said. "I enjoy being out here, I enjoy every kid, every coach, and knowing I've got the greatest job in the world."
The Eagles, of the Division I-AA Big Sky Conference, open their season tomorrow in Storrs, Conn., taking on the Division I-A University of Connecticut.
Tammy Wulff has been battling cancer for more than four years, and this summer appeared to get the upper hand. On June 1, an MRI revealed no further trace of cancer, indicating experimental drugs and traditional radiation had done the job.
"We knew it wasn't anything final or conclusive, but it was way more promising than we'd ever imagined," Paul Wulff said. "We were so thankful, and we thanked God."
In late July, Tammy began to experience small motor malfunctions. She bumped into walls. Her right arm slipped off an armrest.
A new MRI revealed a new tumor in her brain, already three quarters of an inch wide and an inch and a half in length.
Within 48 hours of meeting with two Spokane neurologists, the Wulffs were in San Francisco for an audience with Dr. Mitchell Berger. He admitted Tammy to a new clinical trial, which included surgery to remove the tumor and an aggressive treatment with proteins and toxins to attack remaining cancer cells.
During the ordeal, Tammy became paralyzed on her right side.
"She's in pain, but mostly it's been so emotionally draining," said Wulff. "She's been in bed for 2-1/2 weeks, almost totally paralyzed on her right side. Five weeks before that, she's teaching aerobics."
When the Eagles opened fall drills, Wulff became a commuter coach. He made four recent trips to San Francisco, for 24 or 36 hours at a time. He has turned part of his duties over to assistant head coach Tom Missel and offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach.
"It was hard at first," Wulff acknowledged. "But there was no choice. I was doing what was right for the team and myself at the same time."
In Tammy Wulff's hospital room are two oversized cards inscribed with inspirational sayings and autographed by every member of the team.
"A lot of these guys know her. She really likes them, and she's been a part of their lives," Wulff said. "I'm sure it's given everybody a cold dose of reality, that this is a game we play and that there's nothing you can take for granted in this life."
On Monday, Tammy Wulff was able to open and close her right hand, and move her right leg. She may be transferred to St. Luke's Rehabilitation Center in Spokane as early as next week.