Robert Yates on cancer fight: ‘One day I’m beating it, the next day I’m not beating it’

Photo: Harold Hinson Photography
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KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — Robert Yates said he was told by a doctor last week to gather his family and make plans for hospice because “you’re done in four weeks.” 

Four hours later, Yates’ future looked much better.

Another doctor told Yates, who is battling liver cancer, that the terminal diagnosis was wrong.

“I need both doctors, but I need a little cheerleading, too,’’ said the 74-year-old former team owner who will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January.

Monday was a good day for Yates, who was at Stewart-Haas Racing to see Danica Patrick’s throwback paint scheme for next month’s Southern 500. The car Patrick will drive mirrors the No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit red, white and blue Ford that Yates owned in the mid 1990s and the scheme on Dale Jarrett’s car in his 1999 championship season.

He also was presented a Daytona 500 ring by Stewart-Haas Racing. Kurt Busch‘s Ford was powered by Roush Yates Engines, which his son, Doug, operates.

“I’ve got a lot to be thankful for,’’ Yates said.

While his battle with liver cancer has cost him weight, it has not diminished his desire to remain active.

“If I get up and get out of the house and go to the farm and get on a tractor or lawnmower or bulldozer or something, I can stay on that all day long,’’ Yates said. “Sitting on it, pushing dirt and trees, I love it. I go home that night and sleep better. Sitting in a chair promotes sitting in a chair. I sat in the chair too much last week.’’

Yates first underwent treatment on Oct. 31, 2016. He has gone through chemotherapy and also experimental treatments.

“I told somebody a good while back that it is easier to win the Daytona 500 than to beat this stuff,’’ said Yates, who won two Daytona 500s with Jarrett and one with Davey Allison. “One day I’m beating it, the next day I’m not beating it.’’

The misdiagnosis last week came because Yates said a scan was measured incorrectly. He was originally told his cancer had grown 36 percent. The review of that scan showed that was incorrect.

Yates, who won 57 races as a team owner in NASCAR’s top series, remains feisty.

After one doctor told Yates about hospice over a number of visits, Yates responded: “I remember really well. You told me 10 times about hospice. … I know exactly who they are and what they do. Do not talk to me about hospice anymore.’’

That same attitude is evident in how he faces his illness.

“I’m going to fight it,’’ he said. “I plan to beat this if God is willing.’’

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