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Thursday, May 5, 2016

ISU assistant coach conquers blood disorder again

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

DES MOINES - Iowa State assistant Bobby Elliott thought his football coaching days were over.

The life-threatening blood disorder that forced him to have a bone marrow transplant in 1999 had returned. He had undergone four months of chemotherapy and radiation and was bracing for the worst when his doctor called Oct. 30 with the results of his latest test.

Instead, the news was the best he could have expected: The good blood was overtaking the bad in his system. A transplant that had been scheduled for Nov. 6 could be canceled.

"It was an incredible feeling," said Elliott, whose latest battle was chronicled in a story in The Des Moines Register.

"I really honestly 100 percent thought I was done coaching, that I'd be moving back to Iowa City and trying to recover from another transplant after about a three-week stay in the hospital," he said. "Done coaching forever."

But he's still on the sidelines, still serving as Dan McCarney's associate head coach, still coaching the defensive backs and special teams.

"We all think we have problems every day in life and they all seem pretty small when you see what he's been through," McCarney said. "He's as strong as anybody I've been around in my life, he's as focused as anybody I've been around. He's as mentally tough as anyone.

"I'm really proud to have him at my side on my staff."

Elliott was diagnosed with a blood disorder called polycythemia vera in 1998. He was on Hayden Fry's staff at Iowa then and had to leave coaching at the end of the season.

The first transplant was successful and Elliott received the OK to return to coaching. Everything was fine until he learned last June the disorder had returned and he might need another transplant.

Only Elliott's family and a few others, including McCarney, knew he was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. The first results were not encouraging, Elliott said, and the second transplant was scheduled at University Hospitals in Iowa City.

Then came the good news last month. Elliott said he was told that 65 percent of his blood was good and his doctor expected it to get close to 100 percent.

"I'm sure the high of getting a second chance will wear off sometime, but gosh almighty, it's just like I'm coaching for the first time again," Elliott said. "It's a neat feeling just to be free of that dark cloud that's been hanging over my head all summer."

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