Misti Chennault decided that three separate knee injuries over 18 months were enough. The hard core rehabilitation required to come back was worth the sweat, but knowing that more knee ligament tears were likely made the decision to quit playing basketball a little easier.
Better it be bad knees than cancer.
“The ACL tears were still a backlash of chemotherapy,” said the former El Reno High School basketball star, now known as Misti Cussen. “The chemo contributed to the collagen around the tendons and ligaments drying up, and it made those easier to tear.”
The former Misti Chennault twice beat cancer while in high school from 1985-89.
Two grapefruit-sized, malignant tumors led to a complete hysterectomy as a freshman. She was diagnosed with a form of lymphoma in September of her junior year but continued to play basketball for the Indians the next two seasons between chemo treatments. The sick teenager, who wore a painter's cap during games to cover a bald head, told The Oklahoman in a 1989 story that when she was first diagnosed as having cancer, “I beat it as soon as I knew I had it.”
Almost a quarter-century later, Cussen recalls a determination to win on and off the basketball court.
“I'd go in the hospital on Friday nights after a game for treatment, then I'd be out there ready to go on Tuesday for our next game,” she said. “The doctor told me I was the first patient where we had to work around a basketball schedule so I could play.”
Cussen was not a sympathy pick for The Oklahoman's Super 5 Team as a senior. She put up legit numbers, averaging 18.7 points and 7.3 rebounds.
Cussen played two years at Kansas, and then transferred to Southern Nazarene for two injury-marred seasons. She remained in basketball as an assistant coach at SNU, then Oral Roberts University under Jerry Finkbeiner.
Finkbeiner recently resigned at ORU to take the head job at Utah State. Cussen, who has been in complete remission for more than 20 years, was named as Oral Roberts' new head coach on April 27. She and husband Kyle have two children, Cassie (8) and Caia (4).
“I played through cancer, then I let torn ACLs do me in,” Cussen laughed. “I would have paid anyone to let me play again.”