As a sports fan I am saddened by how the iconic coach had to give up his position as head coach of the team â€“ a position he held for close to 50 years.
As a father of two, and soon three, I am irate of what happened and the fact that no one, including Joe Pa, and yes I am a fan, did not put maximal effort on protecting these kids from sexual abuse.
I have lots of opinions of what occurred at Penn State, but thatâ€™s not what this blog post is about.
More interesting to you are the questions: What killed Joe Pa? Was it lung cancer? Chemo?
The story of Dr. Bill Mitchell
Dr. Mitchell was a well-known naturopathic physician and one of the founders of the prestigious naturopathic school, Bastyr University. Dr. Mitchell was respected for his work in making naturopathic medicine scientific â€“ as a result, he wrote several books on the topic.
In 2007, Dr. Mitchellâ€™s 27 year-old son mysteriously died from a heart attack. Hours later, the beloved and respected Dr. Mitchell also died from a heart attack at the age of 59 â€“ only hours later.
What killed Joe Pa?
On October 29th, Penn state football team beat Illinois on a game coach Paterno coached with just signs of aging at age 84.
On November 4th, former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is indicted on 40 charges of sex crimes against boys. Some of those charges dated to Sanduskyâ€™s coaching days at Penn State.
On November 9th, Joe Pa is fired of head coach of the Penn State football team. A position he held for longer than most people that read this blog have lived.
On November 18th, just 11 days after his firing (give or take), the 84-year-old coach began chemo for lung cancer. The diagnosis was made a week earlier when Paterno visited his doctor for a bronchial illness.
In the Huffington post, a commentator states â€œ a broken heart did not kill Joe Paterno, cancer did.â€
How do you know? You mean to tell me that he did not have lung cancer one-week prior? 6-weeks prior? Or even 6-months prior? Really?
Give me a break.
Cancer is a complicated disease and anyone who claims to know how it works is a moron. But cancer does not happen over night. And yes, it is biologically and scientifically feasible for â€œa broken heartâ€ to expedite someoneâ€™s demise. And yes, un-managed stress, disappointment, depression, uncontrolled anxiety, loss of a loved one or sudden loss of a job that you passionately had can biologically cause a favorable environment for cancer cells to grow and progress.
The science of stress and cancer – overly simplified
There is a section in your brain called the hypothalamus-pituitary axis (HPA) that connects your hormonal system with your nervous system. Once an event or series of events is perceived as stressors, the nervous system sends a message to the HPA to start producing stress neuro-transmitters and hormones called catecholamineâ€™s (epinephrine and norepinephrine) and corticosteroids (like cortisol) respectively â€“ both being immune suppressive. There are hundreds of immune cells and immune mediators that are suppressed by chemicals produced by stress including Natural Killer (NK) cells. NK cells (among others) are notorious for defending the body against cancer cells. Optimizing the activity of these cells is a good idea. (Reiche et al. 2004)
Joe Pa lost his passion, his love and perhaps most importantly, his identity when he lost his job as head football coach of Penn State. So much so that he turned down several NFL coaching jobs during his career. He even failed to report the nauseating actions of his staff member to protect the name of the school and team.
So what killed Joe Pa? I donâ€™t know for sure but a broken heart was indeed a major contributor.
Reiche EM, Nunes SO, Morimoto HK. Stress, depression, the immune system, and cancer. Lancet Oncol. 2004 Oct;5(10):617-25.