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Billiards legend Jeanette Lee diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer

Known as "The Black Widow," the 49-year-old is revered as one of the top pool players of all time.
/ Source: TODAY

Billiards legend Jeanette Lee has been diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer, according to the American Poolplayers Association. Known as "The Black Widow," the 49-year-old and mom of three is revered as one of the top pool players of all time.

“I intend to bring the same resolve I brought to the billiards table to this fight,” Lee said in a statement released Wednesday. “Jim Valvano so eloquently told us to ‘Never give up.’ I owe it to my three young daughters to do exactly that,” she added, likely referring to the late college basketball coach who also had cancer and died in 1993.

Jeannette Lee Aims
Billiard player Jeanette Lee lines up a shot during a game in Chicago in 1985.Paul Natkin / Getty Images

Lee has been shooting pool since 1989, achieving the No. 1 ranking in the sport and earning more than 30 national and international titles throughout her professional career.

When it came to her iconic nickname, she told ESPN, "It started at this pool room in New York, the Howard Beach Billiard Club. The owner of the room, this guy Gabe, said when I first walked into the room, I was so mysterious and pretty and quiet and nobody knew who I was. Then I just walked up to the table and started whamming balls all over the place.

"From that point on, just teasing, he called me the Black Widow. It was just our little nickname," she recalled. "But then it came up once in an interview with the New York Times and, even though it was supposed to be off the record, they wrote about it. And once it was in the media, it took off."

According to APA, an organization she has been a spokesperson for since 2009, Lee has begun chemotherapy and has scheduled a number of surgeries following her cancer diagnosis.

"At this stage, her doctors say she has a few months to a year left to live," a GoFundMe page created by her family and friends says. "Jeanette’s largest and most pressing concern is the well being of her three young girls Cheyenne (16), Chloe (11) and Savannah (10). Jeanette has been a single mother for the last several years. The future care, well-being and education of her girls is the biggest cause of anxiety for her."

Symptoms of ovarian cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Irregular discharge from the vagina
  • Pain or pressure in the pelvic area
  • Back or abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Feeling full too quickly or difficulty eating
  • A change in bathroom habits, such as more frequent or an urgent need to urinate and/or constipation

The agency urges women to pay attention to their bodies and understand what is normal for them. Any unusual vaginal bleeding, including changes to ones' period, may be an important indicator to see a doctor.

"Now I show people my scar"

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, this isn't the first health challenge Lee has faced. According to the GoFundMe page, she has endured 19 different surgeries for scoliosis. An article about Lee on the APA website also reports that she has been a national spokesperson for The Scoliosis Foundation for over a decade.

"I feel really lucky because my experience was difficult, but I overcame it," Lee told USA Today back in 2003. "I became the national spokesperson because I want to help other girls avoid a lot of pain, embarrassment and loneliness. The reason I had really long hair was to hide my scars, because I felt horribly insecure and ugly. Now I show people my scar. The more I have talked about this, the better I felt."