The IIHF hockey community has rallied to support South African defender Kelley Wilson in her fight against cancer. It’s a sobering story, but also a story of courage and community.
It’s an overused cliche in sports that a single game or tournament is a ‘matter of life and death’. The hyperbolic saying is so widespread that it cheapens genuine life and death battles, such as South Africa defender Kelley Wilson’s.
Two years ago, with lockdown approaching, South Africa defender Kelley Wilson discovered a lump on her breast. The diagnosis was breast cancer.
Despite extensive treatment, cancer has returned and spread.
Wilson’s current diagnosis is stage four triple-negative breast cancer that has metastasised to her lungs. Without treatment, the prognosis is terminal.
There are experimental treatments available, however, they are costly. The 35-year-old has set up a funding page and is halfway towards her goal of R600 000,00 (approx 54,000 AUD).
Incredibly, Wilson is participating in the current IIHF Women’s World Championships. She was part of South Africa’s inspiring win over tournament hosts Croatia a few days ago.
Team Australia captain Rylie Ellis reached out to share Wilson’s inspiring story and share the team’s message of support.
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Hockey Community Provides Support
Ellis learned of Wilson’s plight through family connections. Immediately she set to work raising awareness.
As soon as Ellis informed her teammates, they all wanted to help. They set to work sharing Wilson’s story on social media and helping with fundraising.
Eagle-eyed fans may have noticed the pink ribbon sticker on the back of player helmets. Ellis purchased enough stickers for all teams prior to the tournament.
At a pre-tournament meeting involving all the teams, Australia’s Team Manager Bronwyn Lukowiak asked if teams were willing to support Wilson by wearing the stickers. Every team agreed, even the referees.
“We [the Australian national team] are so inspired by her courage and her determination to compete at the highest level for her country,” Ellis said.
“Hockey is played around the world but it’s a small community when it comes down to it and we wanted to show our support to Kelley and the South African team by wearing the stickers on our helmets in an act of solidarity.
“Breast cancer affects all of us in some way in our lives and we felt it was important to recognise Kelley’s fight and show her that we’re behind her.”
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