Scot and Dawn Pollard: Winning Against Cancer
You may have watched former NBA player and TV personality Scot Pollard on and off the basketball court and/or have seen him about town with his wife and teammate for life, Dawn, at many of the greater Indy area’s best galas and community events. What some may not know about these remarkable Carmel residents, parents and philanthropists is that they have happily survived Dawn’s sudden diagnosis with breast cancer this summer and beat it—together as a team—and with the support of countless family members, friends and strangers who became friends on social media.
Scot and Dawn sat down with Carmel Monthly to share their personal journey—the highs and the lows—in hopes of encouraging people to take their own health seriously and inspire the ones who have heard from their doctors’ mouths the heart-wrenching words, “You have cancer.”
Not Your Ordinary Love Story but a Beautiful One
“We’ve both been married before, and we knew each other while we were married,” Scot stated honestly. “Our relationship started out the wrong way, and now it’s the right way. She lived in Colorado, and I was bouncing around the NBA.”
Dawn added, “What drew us to each other was that our dads passed away when we were young. My dad died of kidney cancer when I was 21 in 2000, and his dad had died when he was 16, so we bonded over those experiences.”
Scot mentioned that looking back now, they both feel that losing their dads gave them a lot of perspective leading up to what they went through this past summer.
“We both had dealt with tragedy and losing a father at a young age, and that either destroys your life and you could become a blamer—blaming your circumstances on whatever happens in your life—or you learn from it and become a better person,” Scot said. “I think that’s what both of us have done is take those earlier losses and learned from [them]. We’ve become stronger people as a result of it.”
Life in Carmel
As neither are native Hoosiers, the Pollards shared how they have made a home out of Carmel.
“I got traded here from the Sacramento Kings in 2003 and played here [for the Pacers] for three seasons,” Scot said. “I played one season with Cleveland and one season with Boston to end my [NBA] career. I moved back to Kansas because that’s where I went to school, but that was the end of my first marriage. We moved back to Carmel to try to make it work, and we ended up getting divorced here. My kids [from his first marriage] are here, and that’s why Dawn and I live here in Carmel.”
Building Community by Giving to the Community
The Pollards thought the best way to become part of their Carmel and Hoosier communities was to not only live, work and play where they live but to give back as well.
“I think a lot of it started with Dawn,” Scot said, “with her idea to make [Carmel] our home. She said, ‘This isn’t home for either one of us, but let’s make it home.’ One of the first philanthropic organizations we got involved with is the Julian Center. Both of us have had domestic violence in our previous relationships, with violence and manipulation, and so it touches home for both of us.”
The Pollards are contributors to many local organizations, such as Zoobilation, and attend many fundraisers and social events that advocate for a myriad of local charities and causes but are also involved within their tight-knit community of the Village of WestClay, where Scot is a real estate broker with his business partner, Joe Kempler, with Encore Sotheby’s International Realty.
The world stopped on its axis earlier this summer when Dawn—having turned 40—went in for an annual exam and decided to schedule a mammogram. She had a previous mammogram when she was 35 prior to breast augmentation surgery, but nothing came up, and since kidney cancer was the only known threat in her family, Dawn felt that her screening should come back clean.
“I remember that phone call, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, they called me back, and they need a second mammogram,’” Dawn exclaimed. “They told me they saw something and needed a biopsy. From there, it was a downward spiral of emotions. I was on edge until the day I got the diagnosis. I had ductal carcinoma in situ in my left breast.”
Scot added, “The Tom Petty song, ‘Waiting Is the Hardest Part,’ became our theme song because it felt like minutes turned into hours and days into months. It was a lot of waiting. Now that we are here at this point now, we realize that we really had it so lucky. From July—when she was diagnosed—to now, she’s cancer free. So, compared to other peoples’ battles, we are very lucky.”
Dawn’s cancer measured at 10 centimeters at the time she was diagnosed. Miraculously, it had not spread, but to play it safe, Dawn’s medical team decided to pursue a double mastectomy.
“From the time that I was 35 and had a mammogram for my breast augmentation to 40—a five-year span—I had 10 centimeters of DCIS growing in my left breast,” Dawn said. “Who knows when it started? It’s something that I replayed a lot in my head and had to stop doing that so that I could focus on beating it.”
Scot, with an incredibly somber face, added, “We asked what if she had waited another year to get screened, and every single one of the doctors said nothing. They only shook their heads ‘no.’ The fact that it didn’t become invasive and break out all over her body is incredible. She simply went in for a mammogram because it is recommended at age 40 and had it not been for that, well, I just get chills when I think about it.”
Scot and Dawn’s love survived a great test, and Dawn survived to fight another day. The surgery was successful, and her recovery has been going well as she has steadily gained her strength back to the vivacious “Thaitalian,” as Scot lovingly refers to his part Thai, part Italian bride. But both admitted that it took the love and support of their family, friends and even strangers who reached out to help pull them through some of their most frightful and challenging moments.
“I had to put all inside,” Scot admitted. “I went into ‘robot’ mode for Dawn and the kids. She is the strongest person I know, and I lean on her a lot, but she needed me to be the rock, and I needed to be strong for her. I held it all in until the day of her surgery, and after she went back, I went into a corner at the hospital—I had a sweater with me—and I bawled like a baby for f*****g hours. I finally let it out and got back to center so that we could deal with life again.”
Pollards on Post-Surgery
“Overall, I feel good,” Dawn emphasized. “It’s tough to keep me down, but I’ve been taking care of myself. It’s been two months [post-op], and I’m not getting tired mid-day anymore, and I’m back to running around.”
When asked if Scot made for a good nurse, she lovingly replied, “Yes, he had all of my medications set to a timer, so I didn’t have to think about it, even though I sometimes questioned whether or not I had taken the medication.”
Scot interjected, “Sometimes? I was like, ‘Wait, you’re the one on drugs. I’m sober. Stop questioning me!’” Both husband and wife laughed at Scot’s teasing.
“I’m taking care of me, but I’ve always been hypersensitive, having lost a parent, about what I put into my body, so I try to eat healthy,” Dawn said. “But my oncologist told me to go ahead and ‘drink the wine’ when we asked if I could go on a trip we planned. I needed that trip.”
Scot added, “You need to talk with your doctors, make the right decisions health-wise, stop smoking or whatever and yes, drink the wine but don’t drink all of it.”
A Giant Heartfelt “Thank You” from the Pollards
To all of the people that reached out—family, friends, neighbors and even complete strangers—the Pollards wish to extend a sincere and heartfelt “thank you.”
Dawn expressed, “I could not have gone through these last several months without them, the phone calls, texts, food and flowers—oh, I had so many flowers, and all of that got me through this, so thank you!”
Scot concluded, “It’s like [John] Lennon said, ‘The love you
take is equal to the love you make.’ Dawn gives so much, and that’s a testament
to her. Her personality just exudes giving, and she was finally on the
receiving end of all that love that she gives all the time.”