Pitt women’s basketball player takes court for first time following cancer surgery

PITTSBURGH — Kyla Nelson’s story is an inspiring one, just in time for the holidays. The Pitt Women’s Basketball player is about to play her first game of the season less than three months after having surgery for cancer. Nelson is expected to be on the court when Pitt takes on Miami, Ohio, at the Peterson Events Center on Dec. 17.

The 22-year-old from Britain had an emergency appendectomy in August. Weeks later, doctors called her to say they found a tumor inside the appendix.

Channel 11 first talked to Nelson just days before the surgery.

You can customize your WPXI News App to receive alerts for sports news. CLICK HERE to find out how.

“I kind of blanked,” Nelson said about the diagnosis. “I’m more of an information person, so it was: ‘OK, what’s next? What do I have to do?’ I remember telling my mom, and obviously it’s hard for my family because they’re so far away.”

Her parents came to Pittsburgh for the surgery on Oct. 1. Doctors said everything went as expected.

Nelson sat down with Channel 11 again this week.

“They removed the right part of my colon,” Nelson told Channel 11 this week. “They reattached it by stapling it. They did it laparoscopically, so they used holes to blow up the stomach and the cameras to cut a part of me and cut the stomach muscle to actually go in and get the colon.”

She spent several days in the hospital and said one week after surgery, she was at practice watching her teammates.

“I can’t stay away for too long. I remember, I think I got out of the hospital on a Friday. I had the surgery on a Monday. I think I was back watching practice the next Monday,” Nelson said. “I wanted to be involved in everything.”

Nelson wasn’t allowed to do anything for six weeks. She said it was hard for her to be patient but she did it. She then started biking and moving around again and was cleared to practice with her team earlier this week. The entire time, the student-athlete kept up with her coursework so she would be eligible to play this year.

Nelson said the entire experience hasn’t really sunk in yet but it has changed her in a good way.

“I’m a person that worried and cares about a lot of things. And I think after going through all of this, it’s made me realize what’s really important and what’s not. It put things in perspective,” Nelson said.

Nelson said if she inspires people, that makes her very happy. She plans to use her experience to help others, those battling cancer and those battling other problems.

"I just want to do what I can when someone needs me. People are welcome to message me and talk to me," Nelson said. "Just know you're not alone, and if you feel like you're alone, reach out to someone. Because I'm sure there will be people for you."

Nelson credited the people around her - her teammates, coaches, doctors and trainers- for helping her get through these weeks. She the said university and the city are like a family and she’s grateful for the support.

She said she will be nervous for her first game back, but she is excited.

Nelson said: “I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself. I love the game. And I want to be a part of this team. But I realize it’s basketball, and there are other things bigger than that. So hey, if I miss a shot, I can just run back on defense. It’s OK. And I think that’s really helped me. So I’m just gonna play and have fun.”