Siloam Springs Coach Overcomes Cancer; Returns to the Bench

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"I'll never forget when I was told I had cancer, I'll never forget," Rose Cheek said.

For 33 years Rose Cheek was a Siloam Springs legend. A beloved teacher, a national coach of the year. She led the Lady Panthers to seven volleyball state titles.  In January of 2013, Cheek was given some devastating news, she had stage three colon cancer.

"I can remember I shook, my feet, my hands were trembling and of course I started crying," Cheek said.

"I felt like I was missing part of who I am," assistant coach Joellen Wright said. "My right hand man, my best friend, my mentor."

I walked out of there (doctor's office) and went on to track practice but I walked into track and I couldn't focus," Cheek said. "I couldn't think and so finally I handed the stuff to the boys track coach and said I got to get out of here."

Coaching, teaching, everything came to a halt.

"You're fighting for your life, but you have to," Cheek said. "It's either that or give up and I don't give up on anything."

For a person who has worked every day in her life, now she had to work to save her life.

"I never took a sick leave," Cheek said. "I never took a sick day, I never even took a personal day."

For the first time in 33 years, coach Cheek had to quit coaching.

"She wasn't there and she couldn't help it," Wright said. "It was hard to have to adjust."

For seven months she battled. Chemo treatments every week, until one day she got the news--Cheek was cancer free.

"I walked outside and I mean I was 'Yes, I did it, it's over!'" Cheek said. "You're just jumping in the parking lot going, 'God, I'm done with it."

Coach Cheek made her return to the bench this season, but it was for herself, it was for the lives that she's touched for three decades.

"Here's this lady who's been through this," Wright said. "But she is still passionate and driven to help these kids be the best they can be."

"When we are talking to her in a group huddle, she'll bring it up and it will kind of click in our heads," senior Sierra Cifuentes said. "She's fought through life or death, we can fight through this game."

"I feel so much that we learn in sports is carry over in life," Cheek said. "Hard work, all of that hard work, I want the girls to realize that all of that hard work, how it pays off."

Rose Cheek has all of the accolades. 526 volleyball victories but no victory was sweeter than a new lease on life.

"I've got a whole lot more of life," Cheek said. "I want to live, there's a whole lot more I want to do."



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