Former SDSU Basketball Star Opens Up About Cancer Battle

Tammy Blackburn leads a jam-packed life with no desire to slow down for the "Big C."

Friday, Sept. 1 at 4:00 p.m. is a moment Tammy Blackburn will forever remember.

“My phone rings and I could tell that it was my doctor," Blackburn said. "When I picked up the phone I could hear a very small quiver in her voice and I almost knew.”

Blackburn’s voiced trails off when describing the call that changed her life.

She was diagnosed that day with Stage 2 ductal carcinoma breast cancer.

Her doctor told her it was treatable and her so-called “breast care team” at UC San Diego Medical Center created a plan: four rounds of chemotherapy, surgery, then radiation.

“You’re coming up with a game plan, you’re executing, you’re goal setting, you’re focusing, you’re getting your teammates together, you’re finding out the scouting report on your opponent, which in this case is cancer.”

Blackburn naturally thinks in terms of sports analogy. She was a four-year starting guard from 1990-1994 for the women’s basketball team at San Diego State University.

She went on to work for SDSU Alumni and is now the Director of Development Technologies.

She also moonlights on the weekends for the Pac-12 Network and CBS, calling collegiate women’s basketball games.

A jam-packed life with no desire to slow down for the Big C.

Blackburn decided early on to continue her on-air work, despite losing her hair because of chemo treatments.

She was forced to decide: wig, hat or bald?

“At the end of the day, this is who I am, this is what I’m facing and this is what I look like. This is the real me right now, living my every day,” Blackburn said. “It has meant a lot to so many women to see me as they say ‘rock the bald’ each and every day.”

Because of her high-profile weekend gig, Blackburn has been showered with support from nearly every Pac-12 school, along with her alma mater, SDSU of course.

The Aztec Women’s Basketball team gave her signed boxing gloves, representative of the fight she’s facing. She keeps the pair in her office as a reminder.

“This is symbolic of the fact that everyone wants me to kick cancer in the tail side,” Blackburn said.

The University of Washington women’s basketball team also honored her with shirts that said #PlayForHer, Tammy Blackburn.

And at the University of Southern California, the women of Troy had custom pink jerseys made with Blackburn’s name on the back.

“I have no words. All I can say is I’m the luckiest breast cancer patient alive.”

Her connection to USC is a special one because her high school coach is now leading the Trojans for the second time around.

Mark Trakh coached the USC women from 2005-2009 and was hired again last year. Since learning of his former pupil’s cancer diagnosis, he had Blackburn give a motivational speech to players.

Blackburn says inspiring others to “transmute fear” is what keeps her going.

Motivating her now… beating cancer of course, but also paying it forward.

While Blackburn has top care at UCSD Medical Center and insurance to cover it, she knows others do not.

She is working to set up a fund at San Diego State to help those who need resources in dealing with cancer themselves or for their family members. 

Contact Us