Kaye Cowher, wife of former Steelers football coach Bill Cowher, has died at the age of 54 of skin cancer. Bill and Kaye, along with their three daughters were living in Raleigh NC, where they moved in 2006 after Bill retired from coaching.
Kaye Cowher was an athlete, just like her husband. The couple met when they were classmates at North Carolina State University in 1976 when he was linebacker on the football team and Kaye played basketball. Kaye, along with twin sister Kaye, went on to play for the Women’s Professional Basketball League. The Cowher’s three daughters are now also basketball players.
At the time of her death, she was a member of the North Carolina State Board of Visitors, an honorary body that advises the chancellor and board of trustees. She also worked hard for charities, such as Family Resources, which focuses on child abuse prevention.
"I know that our family is strong and solid," she told KDKA during a fundraiser, "and I would like to see every family have some of the things that we all want for our kids."
When Bill Cowher left coaching, he said “To my wife, my soul mate and my friend: the sacrifice that she's made and the love and support that she has given me through the years, she's been my backbone."
Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It most often occurs in people over the age of 50. There are three primary types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. It is a slow-growing form, and the skin may appear only slightly different than normal skin. It is commonly found as a skin bump or growth that is pearly or waxy, white or light pink, flesh-colored or brown. In some cases the skin is only slightly raised or may even be flat. It is not as likely to spread to other parts of the body. According to the American Cancer Society, 75% of all skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas.
Squamous cell cancers appear as a bump on the face, ears, neck, hands, or arms most often, but can occur on other areas. A sore that does not heal can be a sign of squamous cell cancer. This type of cancer is faster spreading than basal cell cancer, but has a high cure rate (95%) if it is treated early. It also rarely spreads to other locations.
Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and is the leading cause of death from skin disease. This type of cancer involves the melanocytes, which is responsible for pigment in skin and hair color. The primary symptom is a mole, sore, lump, or growth on the skin with these characteristics, known as the ABCD system:
• Asymmetry: One half of the abnormal area is different from the other half.
• Borders: The lesion or growth has irregular edges.
• Color: Color changes from one area to another, with shades of tan, brown, or black (sometimes white, red, or blue). A mixture of colors may appear within one sore.
• Diameter: The trouble spot is usually (but not always) larger than 6 mm in diameter -- about the size of a pencil eraser.
While complexion, genetics, and age are all known risk factors for skin cancer, the primary cause is often sun exposure and sunburn. Most skin cancers occur on areas that are regularly exposed to sunlight or other ultraviolet radiation. Minimizing sun exposure is the best way to prevent skin damage and skin cancer.
Kaye Cowher is survived by her husband Bill, daughters Meagan, Lauren, and Lindsay. Services will be held in North Carolina on Monday.