'A little better place:' Teresa McMahan succumbs to cancer battle

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Teresa McMahan grew progressively weaker over the last month, but that didn’t make Tuesday morning any easier.

The mother of University of Tennessee freshman Cait McMahan succumbed to a decade-long battle with cancer at 3 a.m. She is survived by Cait, son Reese, ex-husband Earl, parents Marion and Eloise Dailey and siblings Wiley Dailey, Betty Ashworth and Janet Thompson.

Teresa McMahan was 53.

"You just remember who she was and that she’s going to be in a little better place and pain-free," Earl McMahan said.

Funeral arrangements are for a graveside service at 2 p.m. Thursday at Grandview Cemetery, 2304 Tuckaleechee Pike. The way Teresa wanted to be remembered was resolved a long time ago.

"Teresa didn’t want any receiving of friends or anything," Earl said, "just a simple graveside service." Friends can go by McMcCammon-Ammons-Click Funeral Home to sign the guest book beginning at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Teresa was first diagnosed with breast cancer while Cait was still an elementary student.

Remitting and returning on several occasions, it would spread to her bones in its latter stages, leaving the mother of one of Blount County’s most celebrated athletes bed-ridden for the final month of her life.

While divorced, Earl and Teresa remained close.

"It didn’t mean we didn’t still love each other," Earl said. "(I) lost my best friend."

Teresa’s condition worsened rapidly in the last year of her life. Many worried she would not survive to see Cait, then a senior at Heritage, fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a Lady Vol.

When Cait played her first game at Tennessee last November, Teresa was courtside at Thompson-Boling Arena. She would watch the Lady Vols win the program’s seventh national championship this spring from her sickbed, with Earl there by her side.

When Cait returned home from Cleveland, site of the Women’s Final Four, she wrapped the piece of the championship netting she’d saved around Teresa’s wrist.

"This is a sad day for the McMahan and Lady Vol families," said Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt. "Having had the opportunity to know Teresa – she had incredible faith and fight and truly was a great mother. Our thoughts go out to Cait, Reese and the McMahan family."

Cait McMahan struggled with a surgically repaired knee, the result of an injury suffered during her senior year at Heritage, for much of her freshman season at Tennessee. According to a family member, the Parade All-American is expected to undergo surgery early next month and will likely take a medical red shirt this fall.

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