‘Dig Pink’ an emotional tribute

Kelly Elliot, women’s volleyball head coach, talks about her battle with breast cancer and how she fought the disease and came out on top. She shows off her team’s pink jersey for their annual “Dig Pink” game while visiting in her office. | Photo by Ebbie Davis

By Josh Brown

“I distinctly remember getting the phone call. I was picking my kids up from school. It was one of those moments, at the age of 35, that you do not expect. I didn’t cry or panic, but it was kind of a shock to hear I had it.”

In January of last year, Kel­ly Elliott, now head volleyball coach of the Lady Bulldogs, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Elliott, who was then a sports management pro­fessor at Union, quickly be­gan chemotherapy to rid her body of the disease.

The treatment was a suc­cess, but came with heavy costs to Elliott. She experi­enced hair loss along with a multitude of physical and emotional tolls that come with five months of such medication.

“Your first thought is (wanting to) be able to see your children grow up and that scare, and those are the kind of things that would break me down at times,” Elliott said. “But my (main) thought was, ‘What is the game plan from here?’ I couldn’t be depressed. I just had to stay active and press through it.”

Only two weeks after fin­ishing the treatments, El­liott decided to take the head coaching position for the Lady Bulldogs volleyball team, which was offered to her after former Head Coach Steven Gream resigned late in October last year.

Despite being short on free time, Elliott took the po­sition with seven years of as­sistant collegiate volleyball coaching experience under her belt as well as deep re­lationships with many of the women through Bible stud­ies she led. These reasons made Elliott’s decision to take the job an easier one to make, and she took the posi­tion with much confidence.

“It was a great shift for me,” Elliott said. “It jerked me out of treatment. I was so busy and focused with family and volleyball that it helped jump-start me back into a normal life.”

This 2010 season is El­liott’s first full season in the head coaching position for the Lady Bulldogs, and the team has helped her transi­tion smoothly.

“It’s been a great season so far,” Elliott said. “It is ba­sically the same team back with a couple of new addi­tions, and we have great team chemistry.”

Every season the Lady Bulldogs participate in a game called “Dig Pink,” in which the women sport pink uniforms to support the cause of breast cancer awareness. Now, coach­ing the Lady Bulldogs after going through a bout with breast cancer, the Dig Pink game holds a deeper place in Elliott’s heart.

“It’s a neat experience be­cause I love volleyball, and to see it connected with something that has touched me personally is big,” Elliott said. “Just raising awareness is important. I’m happy to tell people about my experi­ence and hope that may help any way that it can.”

Going through that ex­perience is something that means a great deal to El­liott. She said her heart goes out to those who are going through, or have already been through, a bout with breast cancer, and she of­fered a word of advice to people in that situation.

“If you get depressed or discouraged, you are going to have more of a difficult time with it,” Elliott said. “I honestly believe, apart from my faith — which was the biggest thing that helped me get through — that family, friends and that kind of sup­port are huge. It is just the way you approach it.”

The Lady Bulldogs will play Cumberland (Tenn.) University in the Dig Pink game Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. Stu­dents are encouraged to at­tend and cheer on the Lady Bulldogs, as well as support the cause of breast cancer awareness.

The next home game for the Lady Bulldogs is Thurs­day at 7 p.m. against Trev­ecca Nazarene University.

The team is sporting a 13–4 record and a 6–0 mark in TranSouth Conference play coming off of a road game conference win against Bethel University.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.