Cyd McMillian’s Story of Faith and Resilience

Cyd and three volleyball coaches on a volleyball court

In 2021, Cyd received a shocking phone call during volleyball tryouts: she had breast cancer. Determined to face this challenge with faith and resilience, she embarked on a long and grueling journey that included chemotherapy, surgeries, and countless medical appointments. Through all of this, she still coached her team to win a state championship! She hopes her story serves as a source of strength and encouragement to others facing breast cancer.

Can you tell us about your breast cancer journey?

Like many who hear the news for the first time, I was shocked. We were just completing our first session of volleyball tryouts in 2021 when I received a phone call from my oncologist stating that I had breast cancer. I remember freezing in the moment wondering what this meant for my life and recalling my doctor’s words suggesting it would be a long journey. Somewhat in denial, I knew with God on my side that the journey belonged to Him, but He was going to use me as a platform for many to see His ultimate Grace and mercy on my life. I prayed one night and told God that I would be willing to walk in the fire for Him, but when I came out, I wanted no signs of being burnt or smelling of smoke. The journey was long and transpired across two volleyball seasons amidst 6 hard chemotherapy sessions, 2 lumpectomies, 20 radiation sessions, 14 additional chemotherapy sessions, and so many blood draws and port needles that I completely lost count through the years. Not to mention losing all my hair on my head and on my limbs but not my eyebrows.  I attended practice every day, every game, and worked every day except for two days because my doctor told me to take off after the lumpectomy to allow my body to rest.  All the while, I never looked sick to others and could typically be found at work even on my hard days busily working and smiling so others couldn’t see what was internally going on. My teams won two consecutive state titles during the journey, and the bonds we shared through some of my most difficult days will be forever engraved in my heart.


What life changes did you have to make after being diagnosed with breast cancer?

I had to fully release my life to God and give up control. There were so many doctor appointments that constantly interrupted my daily routine, and I had to truly let go and let God run the show. The hardest part was getting to the point in my faith in which I released all control over my life to Him while embodying the statement “walking by faith.” Some days I didn’t know my left from my right and while others blame it on the chemo and “brain fog”, I figured if I needed to know something, God would get the news to me at the right time. A second major change dealt with my perspective. Early in the journey I saw a quote that made an instant impact that said “stop asking God why is this happening to me but instead ask what am I supposed to learn from it.” That was a game changer in my overall thoughts on how I was to approach something as potentially catastrophic as being diagnosed with breast cancer. The quote breathe new life into me and it was at that point  I knew this journey wasn’t going to be just for me or about me.


My third change was ultimately learning to make myself a priority in my own life. For so long, I considered my self to be a servant for others, but this journey forced me to pay attention to me and be mindful of who I was in the moment and accepting myself as priority to get through the fight. Finally, I heard a motivational speech from the Head Women’s Basketball Coach at Duke, Kara Lawson, where she talked about the “easy bus not coming.” That became my mantra and what I would teach others. The easy bus never came, but I began to echo her sentiments in that “we just get better at handling the hard.”

Cyd holding the Trainer+ volleyball setting target with net


Who did you look to for inspiration and support throughout this time?

My family and friends who I knew would pray with me and stand with me were my first go to’s. I did not want anyone around me with a message other than what spoke of victory. My college volleyball former teammates and other strong breast cancer fighters who survived because I desired ladies who had been in the fire and who could tell me like it was without any fluff. My daughter, Mykayla, who at the time was playing on my varsity team along with my volleyball program because they both affirmed me in so many ways that helped me keep my head lifted on even the heaviest days.


How have you seen your story inspire those around you and other people fighting cancer?

My story certainly showed that breast cancer can impact anyone. However, I wanted to change the face of what people thought it was supposed to look like and build a platform in which others could see Christ through the journey.


What was coaching like during this time of life? How did you balance it all?

There were days I physically felt like I couldn’t lift my feet after my first session of chemotherapy. My varsity assistant left in the first two weeks of season soon after my announcement for personal reasons and while my staff was amazing, I had to coach varsity alone. That being said, I had won a state championship when my seniors were sophomores so I knew I had a great group of young ladies that I had trained for 3 years. Although I tried to hide it, my senior leader, Sophie Agee, knew when to lead and how to help the group navigate some dark and unchartered waters on my tough days. I showed up every day. I was destined to show no cracks in our armor because I knew my entire program had my back. Well, we won our second state title together that season after playing a 5-hour card game, Phase 10, the night before with my bald head hidden underneath a camo head scarf. They didn’t know my hair had fallen out as I was accustomed to wearing wigs to get ready for that moment and wore a new wig the next day during our championship match. Phase 10 was my favorite game, and I wanted to spend time with my team because I knew after the match our days together would be numbered. I’ll never forget sitting in the lobby playing hand after hand and eating so many cherries together and anything people would bring us down from the rooms. I still chuckle at the memory.

Cyd Mcmillian on a volleyball court with other coaches

When did you find out you were cancer free and what has life been like since then?

I rang my final bell on March 14, 2023. A few weeks later after going through another series of screens, my oncologist informed me of the good news. Since then the easy bus still never came. I had to reconfigure who I was and redefine a new normal. Many days were easier than others but no one after it’s all done tells you how to pick up all the pieces of your life. It’s a lonely place but I’m super thankful that God was with me every step of the way and continues to show me He’s still near. I’ve done some counseling sessions to recenter myself and have dabbled in finding a workout routine which I use to do so easily, but the motivation isn’t all the way back yet. I’m still coaching and focused on living my best life and being the best version of myself daily and that keeps me grounded with one foot stepping in front of the other. By the way, my hair has grown back with a totally different texture. They call it “chemo curls,” my curls are popping and I can run my fingers through it. Never have I ever had curly hair by the way.


What would you like people to know the most about your journey and about those who fight breast cancer?

The things I want others to know from my journey:

God is bigger than cancer!

You have to have faith before the fight.

God will never give you more than you can bear with Him.

When you’ve done all you know to do then just stand and let go and let God.

Losing your hair is not the end of the world. It grows back!

The easy bus is simply not coming. You just get better at handling the hard.

This journey will definitely change your perspective on life, relationships, where and how you expend your energy.