“Blessing” is not usually the word used to describe a cancer diagnosis.

However, that’s exactly how Roni (Arellano '01) Miller, head coach of the York College softball team, sees it.

A blessing that the cancer was caught so early. A blessing that this diagnosis has been a rallying point for her players, the campus, the community of York, and beyond.

A blessing that the diagnosis happened at all.

Miller went to the doctor in the fall because she’d been sick with a respiratory infection. It was October, breast cancer awareness month, and the clinic was offering a free gift if you scheduled a mammogram. Why not? she thought. I like free things.

The real gift turned out to be an early cancer diagnosis. Miller’s cancer is considered Stage 0, meaning that abnormal cells have not likely begun to spread. “Finding it so early was a blessing,” said Miller, who will have the tumor removed on Monday, February 5.  

A few days after surgery, Miller will be honored at the annual Coaches vs. Cancer basketball games at York College, on Wednesday, February 7. The Panthers will take on McPherson College at 6 p.m. (women) and 8 p.m. (men) in the Freeman Center. All are encouraged to wear pink to the games to show their support. At this fundraising event, student athletes will host a silent auction and provide pink ribbons for a free will donation.

The softball team ordered a supply of custom Pink Out tee shirts ahead of the game, which quickly sold out. They will be collecting additional orders for the $15 tees at the basketball games on the 7th. Shirts will arrive in time for fans to wear them at a “Strike Out Cancer” event hosted by the softball team on March 24 as they take on opponent Oklahoma Wesleyan.

All of the proceeds from these activities will help cover the Millers’ medical related expenses. Those that wish to help but can’t make it to the games can contact Bailey Davis (bdavis@york.edu or 402-363-5606) to get involved.

Miller’s husband, Kenny, is a retired Coast Guard officer and current assistant softball coach at YC. They have two daughters, ages 8 and 5.

Dealing with this diagnosis and treatment during softball season has been stressful, but “the support really has been incredible,” said Miller. From meals to childcare to encouraging words and offers for help from students, colleagues, and community members, Miller says she couldn’t imagine having a more supportive network. “There have been no things for me to worry about. I don’t know if that would happen anywhere other than York,” she said.

While coaching, Miller is also a student in the Master’s in Organizational and Global Leadership program at York College Online. “The faculty have been great, offering to extend deadlines and do what they can to help.” Her players are texting her encouragement daily “and doing their best to work hard and not cause me any additional stress.”  One of the most meaningful gestures came from a coach at an opposing school, letting her know that the proceeds from their team’s annual Pink Out event would go to support the Miller’s needs, too.

“It’s incredible to be a part of a Christ-centered conference where that kind of thing happens,” said Miller, who is in her fourth year of coaching at YC.

Coach Miller poses with the 2016-17 York College Panther Softball team,