LEECHBURG (KDKA) – On this day of giving thanks, a local high school volleyball team is thankful to have both of their coaches alive today.
Cancer may have slowed them down, but hasn’t stopped them.
Friends of Ellen Toy, head volleyball coach at Kiski Area High School, who haven’t seen her in a while may have trouble recognizing her today.
In October of 2009, Toy was diagnosed with Adenocarcinoma, which robbed her of 65 percent of her stomach, much of her weight and all of her hair.
“It’s very emotional,” she said. “My husband shaved his head to give me his support. He’s been an amazing individual. I don’t know how I would have done it without him.”
Two other sources of strength have been the Kiski volleyball team, and her assistant coach, Jaime Moran, who knows all too well what it’s like to have cancer.
Twice she was diagnosed with leukemia.
The first was as a freshman in high school; a year and a half of treatment appeared to have beat the disease. But it did not.
Five years later, as a sophomore in college, the leukemia returned. This time, it was treated with a bone marrow transplant from Moran’s identical twin sister, Jodie. It appeared to work again.
So, years later, when her friend Ellen was diagnosed with cancer, Moran sprang into action
“Whenever she was first diagnosed, I gave her all my hats,” Moran said. “Then, when I relapsed, she brought back all the hats, and was like, ‘Here you go, here are all your hats.’”
Earlier this year, just as Toy was finally turning a corner, Moran’s leukemia came back for a third time.
“I’m like really? Give me a break! But you do what you have to do,” said Moran.
She was set to get married in July, but because of the uncertainty of her health, the wedding was pushed up to May. She entered the hospital the next day and would remain there for the next several months.
“She’s amazing,” her sister, Jodie, said. “She’s the strongest person I know. Well, I don’t know, it might be a tie between her and Ellen. But they’re both the most amazing women, I’ve ever met in my life.”
“For some reason we were put together,” said Toy. “For a very important reason, it was to help one another and to understand what each of us were going through.”
“They are the greatest coaches in the world,” said Felicia Reid, a senior on the Kiski team that won their section championship this year for the first time in nearly a decade. “I look up to them in so many ways.”
Both coaches are looking forward to many more successful seasons to come.
“I hope that we’re both in the cure-all stage,” Toy said, “and are balanced and are headed in a positive form.”
“I hope to be back next season; I will be back next season,” Moran added. “I just look forward to that so much.”