Before the story airs: Debra Morgan goes one-on-one with Sylvia Hatchell

Posted July 2, 2014 10:40 a.m. EDT
Updated July 2, 2014 11:09 a.m. EDT

WRAL anchor Debra Morgan and UNC Coach Sylvia Hatchell

It's remarkable how fast life can change. In the instant the doctor utters the words, our assets, honors and titles we thought would define our lives as successful become more like street signs instead of the destination.

I’ve had the opportunity to see this firsthand in our community through wonderful charities that have welcomed me. I’ve heard it repeated many times ... "What I thought mattered just didn’t anymore." Executives, painters, teachers, musicians ... you name it. Even the most successful in their field find what they value most becomes much more basic: How do I survive? If I don’t survive, what does that mean for my family and those who count on me? Have I done what I wanted to do with the life I was given?

In October 2013, just three days before UNC Coach Sylvia Hatchell was given her diagnosis of Leukemia, I was honored to moderate a panel discussion with of all four Triangle division one NCAA women's coaches. It's one of my favorite events. As usual, Coach Hatchell was funny, engaging, insightful and never seemed the slightest bit sick. At the time, she didn’t know.

The winningest active coach in women's college basketball was having a career year. She was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, an honor she called "the next best thing to heaven for a basketball guru like me." She had the top recruiting class in the country. She earned her 900th win, one of only three women's coaches to ever reach that milestone. Her family was doing well. She had life lined up right where she thought she wanted it.

Then, her doctor uttered those words. Cancer ... Leukemia ... Hospital ... Chemo ... Now.

How does one of the most successful and energetic people in her field deal with losing control, losing her purpose in life – to coach – and being told she may be losing her life?

After spending time with Sylvia Hatchell, I was inspired. Rivalries aside, you can't help but be a fan. Her prominence in her field and in our community garners attention when something like this occurs. But her story is true for so many of our friends and family. She will inspire you to fight as hard as you can for what truly matters.

Thursday on WRAL-TV at 5:30 p.m., Coach Hatchell takes me back to that day she received the call from the doctor. She invited me into her beautiful Chapel Hill home, all decorated in Carolina blue, of course, where we chatted for three hours. She and her husband open up about her diagnosis, how she told her team, how faith, family and friends pulled her through and how she feels compelled to help others.

And you can’t miss the really interesting place where she keeps her wig!

Watch a preview of the story: