For the Episcopal and University Lab high school volleyball teams, the annual Pink Game has new inspiration in the form of Episcopal volleyball player Cali Sabolik, 15.
Sabolik was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in July. After surgery and four rounds of chemotherapy, she remains an inspiration to her Episcopal teammates and the community, school officials said.
When University coach Bonita Johnson heard about Sabolik, she knew that her team would want to support her.
“University and Episcopal have been rivals,” Johnson said, “but when they’re not playing each other, they are friends.”
To support Sabolik, and because teal is the color used to bring awareness of ovarian cancer, University High’s Pink Game was expanded to become a Pink and Teal Game.
When the teams played each other in September, both teams united to wear teal-colored hair ribbons, and all of the players and coaches from both teams signed a large homemade teal card in support of Sabolik.
Sabolik has faced her challenges with strength and optimism. “You can be on top of the world with everything going great one day, and the next day everything changes and you feel like everything has been taken away,” she said. “It’s then that you rely on family, friends and faith in God to stay positive and upbeat.”
Sabolik’s mother, Danna Sabolik, hopes that by sharing Cali’s story, it will bring awareness to a wider audience.
“It’s called the silent cancer,” Danna Sabolik said, partly because it goes symptomless for so long, and when Cali began having symptoms, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. They were about to leave for a vacation when Cali began to experience nausea, and her mother decided to get it checked out before they left, just in case.
“She was playing volleyball; she felt perfectly healthy,” Sabolik said, and now life has changed to center on surgeries, treatments and recovery.
Sabolik is getting treatment through Our Lady of the Lake, with consultation from St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. “Our Lady sent her tests there, and St. Jude’s came up with a treatment plan,” Sabolik said.
Her volleyball teammates also created a rotating schedule to bring meals for the family on days when Sabolik needs treatments and they don’t have time or energy to cook.
Episcopal coach Briget Melancon said Sabolik’s story has created desire for awareness and has inspired the Episcopal student body to do something charitable for others.
“This effort is spreading throughout the community,” Melancon said, “and people are reaching out to our volleyball team wanting to do everything in their power to help Cali and her family.” There have been many generous acts of kindness, “but it is Cali who inspires all of us to be courageous. It is truly amazing how one girl can empower an entire community to make a difference in the lives of others.”
University hosts Episcopal in the Pink and Teal Game on Monday, and Episcopal hosts Runnels in their Teal Game on Wednesday.
For more information about ovarian cancer, visit www.cancer.org/cancer/ovariancancer/detailedguide/ovarian-cancer-signs-and-symptoms.