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Roy Marble: Cancer makes him think about things he 'took for granted'

Iowa legend 'hell bent' on fighting terminal disease

Former Iowa basketball players Roy Marble (left) and B.J. Armstrong joke around while recognized during a reunion of the 1986-1987 Elite 8 basketball team before Iowa’s Big Ten college basketball game against Penn State Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)
Former Iowa basketball players Roy Marble (left) and B.J. Armstrong joke around while recognized during a reunion of the 1986-1987 Elite 8 basketball team before Iowa’s Big Ten college basketball game against Penn State Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Roy Marble felt rough physically this summer and his eye started to close on him. The Iowa basketball legend had it checked out, and the discovery was shocking.

Marble was diagnosed with stage four cancer, and he has tumors all over his body. It’s a terminal condition.

“It comes out of nowhere,” said Marble, 47. “There’s not words for it. You’re immediately afraid. You start to think about all the things that you took for granted that you wanted to do. That hits me every day and that’s why my kids are so important to me now.

“Basically I’m in a race to make sure I do all I can to make sure they’re in place to be great human beings and a participant in society in a positive way.”

Marble moved from Cedar Rapids and splits his time between Lansing, Mich., and Iowa City, where he has chemotherapy treatments. He said the tumors are shrinking with radiation. Surgery is not yet an option.

“It’s actually slowing it up right now,” he said. “That’s the most that they could tell me.”

Marble is a fighter, which is something Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery recognizes. Marble, the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,116 points, offered McCaffery unwavering support when he came to Iowa and coached his son, Devyn Marble. McCaffery now offers the same.

“I’m proud of how he’s fought this disease,” said McCaffery, who lost his parents to cancer and his teenage son Patrick is a thyroid cancer survivor. “He’s incredibly optimistic. He’s living every day. When you have tumors in a lot of different locations, that’s never good. The tumors are shrinking and his outlook is incredibly positive, so we’re all praying for him.”

The response is overwhelming. Marble struggles to return calls and texts from friends and well-wishers alike. He hears from old teammates from the Atlanta Hawks and competitors like Magic Johnson. Marble follows his son, Devyn, in his NBA career. He was unable to watch Devyn and the Orlando Magic play in Chicago on Tuesday and instead plans to see him in Detroit on Nov. 17. Two of Marble’s other children — son Merrick (junior college) and daughter Roichelle (Wisconsin) — play college basketball. His youngest son, 16-year-old Carlo, moved with him to Lansing. He has another daughter, Royonah.

His time is limited, but he’s committed to fighting for every hour of every day.

“It’s up to you to make what you make out of it,” Marble said. “I’ve been hell bent on thinking what I want to think, which is I want to fight through this and live to talk about it. That’s where my head is at. By no means do I feel like I’m getting ready to leave this earth. But I know what I was told, and I know what I’m trying to prevent at this point.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3169; scott.dochterman@thegazette.com

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