Notre Dame men’s coach Jim Kubinski lost his father, James, to colon cancer in February 2005. The Irish coach described his father as someone who had never been sick or missed a day of work. He died at age 58.
In 2005, Jim, then 34, was an assistant coach at Duke. He recalls visiting his father in a hospital in Worcester, Mass., and getting some of the best news of his coaching career during a difficult time for his father. “When I saw him, he was in and out of it,” Kubinski said. “I told him I got the Notre Dame job, and then he started to whistle the Notre Dame fight song under his breath with a smile.”
After his father’s death, Kubinski went to see his doctor. The recommended age for most men to have a colon-cancer exam is 50. However, Kubinski’s doctor advised the coach to be examined upon turning 40. When James Kubinski went in for his first colonoscopy, he was found to have had Stage 3 colon cancer.
At 40, Jim Kubinski underwent his first colonoscopy and was found to have a few polyps. “I remember hearing about two types of polyps,” Kubinski said. “The only ones I was really worried about, though, were the flat ones.” Kubinski said his doctor described that type of polyp as very aggressive and more likely to become cancerous. Kubinski’s exam showed some small polyps, but they were found in the early stages and did not develop.
Last November, Kubinski had surgery to remove the polyps. Doctors removed them but also took out his appendix and part of his colon, citing preventive measures. Today, Kubinski is healthy – and thankful.
“It’s a heavy burden off my chest,” he said.
Next Monday will be the opening round of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic. Although Notre Dame will be the home team, its uniforms may be found to be nontraditional. Kubinski is putting a major emphasis on colon-cancer awareness during the tournament. He and his team will be wearing light-blue shirts, shorts and hats in promoting colon-cancer awareness.
“The way that baseball promotes breast-cancer awareness was where I was going with this idea,” Kubinski said. “In baseball, they use pink bats, hats, wrist bands and gloves, so I wanted to do it in blue at our home event.”
Before the tournament starts, Kubinski will share his story and personal experience with fellow coaches, rules officials, and any other parents of players who might be interested in listening. “If this tournament and me speaking brings one person in to get screened and save a life, then it was worth it,” Kubinski said.
Notre Dame will be offering blue ribbons to other teams, coaches and parents. There will also be signs around the Warren Golf Course promoting colon-cancer awareness.
“I remember my doctor telling me at my first exam that colon cancer is the No. 3 killer in forms of cancer,” Kubinski said. “He also said that if screened early, people have a 95 percent living rate.”
Notre Dame and Kubinski hope to provide not only a memorable golf experience for the 11 other teams and parents next week, but an education that could be life-changing, as well.