Basketball Star Who Battled Breast Cancer in College Announces She’s Retiring Due to Recurrence

A basketball star who battled breast cancer in college, then successfully returned to the court after treatment, has announced that she’s retiring from pro ball because her cancer is back.

In an Instagram post, former Syracuse Orange standout and Sydney Flames guard Tiana Mangakahia announced that she’s been diagnosed with stage IV cancer that has spread to other parts of her body. She said her doctors have advised her to retire and think about life after being a professional athlete.

Twenty-eight-year-old Mangakahia wrote, “I never thought I’d be writing this until I was ready to have children with my future husband.”

She added that she plans to pursue a career in coaching and hopes to continue to give back to the sport, of which she’s been a part for 23 years. She also says she’ll continue to bring awareness to “this nasty disease”.

She ended her announcement with, “Cancer does scare me but not living my life to the fullest scares me even more!”

Mangakahia was originally diagnosed with stage II grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma in 2019, when she was months away from her senior season at Syracuse University. The prior season, she’d been named the Syracuse Female Athlete of the Year and became the school’s all-time leader in career assists with her 591st in a game against South Dakota State in the NCAA Tournament. She also became the fastest player in program history to reach 1,000 points scored.

After her diagnosis, she underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy and two surgeries, including a double mastectomy. In November 2020, she made her return to the court after being declared cancer-free a year prior. In her first game, she scored 16 points and had seven rebounds, four steals, and three assists.

At the time, she said, “There was a lot going through my mind, especially on the bus. In the warm-ups, there was less emotions because I was just focused. But on the bus, I was very emotional and I just couldn’t believe that this day was here and I was going to be able to play.”

The Australia native finished college in 2021 and joined up with the Women’s National Basketball League’s Sydney Flames in 2022.

Flames CEO Chris Pongrass issued a statement following Mangakahia’s announcement, saying, “It is hard to express how important Tiana has been for this organization.

“This news is truly devastating, and we share our thoughts, prayers and love with Tiana and her family.

“The Flames will continue to support Tiana throughout the next stage in her career; she will always be part of the Flames family and we are excited to help her continue to grow and develop in basketball.”

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