YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown State will start its new women’s bowling team this year but before the first pin is knocked down, its coach has to deal with one of the worst health issues.
Chelsea Gilliam is battling stage four breast cancer at just 26 years old.
She started bowling at age 5 in a small farm town in Illinois. After competing in high school and college, she became the coach at Union College in Kentucky.
Last year, she was hired to become the first coach of YSU’s newly created women’s bowling team.
“It was an opportunity I felt like I could not pass up, because an opportunity like this does not come along every day for coaches.”
She arrived at YSU having already dealt with breast cancer before, first being diagnosed in October of 2013.
“I had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, and that was it. They thought that was all I would need to get all of it out of there and take care of it, and it did for a while.”
Then in May, Chelsea was diagnosed again.
“It’s late stage, stage four. It has spread to my femur, so they did surgery for that,” she said. “They put in a metal rod through the center of my bone to help support it and keep it strong.”
She says the cancer ate the top of her femur, and she now uses crutches as a direct result.
“I do hormonal therapy and radiation on my femur and pelvis. As long as it’s all working, that’s the plan.”
Chelsea plans on continuing as the women’s bowling coach, which she says keeps her going.
“That is where my mind is at, getting everything ready for the fall.”
Her million dollar smile and personality lets people know they don’t have to feel sorry for her. She speaks frankly, but with a positive tone. Even so, she still cries sometimes.
“When I’m not doing stuff, if I’m alone, usually, or if I just let my mind sit and not be busy and start thinking about things, emotions start coming up. So I try and stay busy, hang out with friends, family, doing stuff all the time so that way I can’t focus on the negative things.”
Chelsea is a fighter. She says she’s stubborn, hard-headed and not about to give up.
A fundraiser called Bowling for Team Chelsea will be held at Holiday Bowl in Struthers on August 5 at 6 p.m. Five-person teams can apply to participate for $100 per team.