(Clarinda) -- Clarinda’s Madi Pulliam knows how to battle in life. So, any obstacle she faced in her senior bowling season was nothing compared to what she faced when she was a sophomore.
The Cardinals state bowling qualifier is the first KMAland Girls Bowler of the Year, and there are plenty of reasons. She ranked among the top bowlers in the area in average game and average series. She advanced to the state tournament, finishing in the top half of Class 1A. And she did all of it after battling back from cancer.
In early 2019, Pulliam was active and playing both basketball and bowling when she started to feel pain in her knee.
“I finished both seasons,” Pulliam told KMA Sports. “On April 8th, I had a specialist do some X-rays. They found a golf ball-sized tumor in my left femur.”
Following a biopsy, Pulliam learned she had osteosarcoma — a type of bone cancer that begins in the cells that form bones. At the end of April, Pulliam began her first round of chemotherapy and went through two full rounds before a knee replacement surgery on July 17th.
“The surgery took around eight hours, and I ended up with 37 stitches down my knee,” Pulliam said.
Then came five more months of chemo, and Pulliam spent almost a year on crutches before one last round of chemo in December of 2019. The Clarinda senior says she was hospitalized 28 different times for stays of three to four nights and missed her junior year of bowling.
In March 2020, Pulliam had her first scan with no reoccurrence, which meant it was time for her to get the bowling ball out again.
“It was figuring out if I could do it,” she said. “If the knee was going to hold up. My slide leg is the one I got the replacement on, but I was very determined it was going to work.”
As we all know now, it did work. However, Pulliam says that didn’t come without some struggle. Not only physically but also emotionally.
“I put a lot of time into it,” she said. “Therapy and strengthening. It was rough at times, but I just had to take it one day at a time. If it hurt, I just kept pushing through. It wasn’t going to stop me. With chemo, I had a bad attitude going into it, but you have to have a good attitude if anything is going to work.”
Pulliam stuck to bowling this past winter, posting an average game score of 177.05 and an average series of 354.09 to rank second in KMAland in both categories. Then she put it all together at her district meet, finishing with a 362 series and advancing to state for the first time in her career.
“It was an honor being there,” Pulliam said. “I was very nervous at the beginning, being there by myself, but there were three other girls in my lane. They were nervous, too. As the games went on, I got more comfortable and ended up with a 353. To place 20th out of 51 bowlers that were there, that was pretty great being in the top half of the state.”
Nerves were nothing compared with what Pulliam faced after her sophomore season, and it’s the strength she gained in fighting cancer that continues to guide her throughout each day.
“It’s just the way life took me,” she said, “but now I’m back to where I want to be.”
Listen to the full interview with Pulliam linked below.