Kelley Wilson dies of cancer
by Martin Merk|25 DEC 2022
Kelley Wilson skates on home ice during the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Qualification in Cape Town.
photo: Emma Swart
South African women’s national team player Kelley Wilson passed away at the age of 36.

“Thank you for your relentless dedication to the game, through everything,” the South African Ice Hockey Federation wrote in a Facebook post.

The defender of the Port Elizabeth Ice Hockey Club, who became a national team player for South Africa in her 30s, was diagnosed with breast cancer few months after winning gold at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division III. Just when she felt fitter than ever in her life.

Having felt a lump in her breast and with her mother having died of breast cancer when Kelley Wilson was 14, she didn’t have a good feeling. She was diagnosed with early-stage triple negative breast cancer and it was aggressive. “He said treating this cancer is complicated, but not impossible. I held onto those words with every bit of might I had left in me at that point,” she wrote in her story in April this year.

Wilson went through chemotherapies but several months later the outlook worsened when lung metastases were discovered. That’s when she went public with her story to ask for help to fund an expensive treatment against a gene mutation that was declined by medical aid. Almost 460,000 rand ($27,000) of the goal of 600,000 rand were collected.

Despite her health situation, Wilson was back on the South African women’s national team at their first tournament after the pandemic. In May earlier this year she played at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B in Zagreb, Croatia and got much moral support not only from her teammates but also from the other teams, who helped spread the word and put stickers on their helmets.

“We are so inspired by her courage and her determination to compete at the highest level for her country,” Australian women’s national team captain Rylie Ellis told sports outlet The Inner Sanctum. “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 recognize Kelley’s fight and show her that we’re behind her.”
South African defender Kelley Wilson (left) with Australian captain Rylie Ellis (right) at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B.
photo: Stjepan Cizmadija
Unfortunately Wilson lost the battle against cancer and left the South African and international ice hockey family in mourning.

The funeral will be planned next week.