I am not who I once was, and that’s ok

By Corrina Cameron

2014 08 12 Corrina CameronCancer changed me. I’m not just talking about the 10-inch scar on my abdomen, or my dysfunctional half-stomach, I mean really changed me. To explain, I have to tell you who I was before.

I was a very athletic person in high school. I danced, played soccer, and competed in track and field. I loved gym class and worked out for fun. The only thing that stopped me from being on the varsity track team in university was that I was a visual arts major and I couldn’t bring my art projects with me on the road. However, that didn’t stop me for signing up for intramural sports. I did not realize this at the time, but my identity was wrapped up in my athleticism.

In my second year of university, I was diagnosed with a Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor. Removing it and half of my stomach took major surgery. Recovery was slow, but I was determined to get back to health as soon as possible. I did everything I could to regain my strength, but this new “Frankenstein stomach” I had was giving me some problems. Nausea, indigestion, and malabsorption were daily issues. I was still struggling with my eating months after the surgery. Recovery from physical exertion was slower than it used to be. I became weaker, unable to retain muscle for as long. I began to lose weight easily, so I had to be careful how much cardio I did to keep my weight above 112 pounds. Then it dawned on me: I wouldn’t be able to play sports like I used to.

Oxford Dictionaries defines an identity crisis as “a period of uncertainty and confusion in which a person’s sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to a change in their expected aims or role in society.” I thanked my lucky stars that I could still do¬†some¬†physical activity, but I would never be as active as I once was. An identity crisis of sorts ensued. In my mind — and I assumed in everyone else’s — Corrina equaled sports. I thought, “Who am I if I can’t play sports?”

When I was finished having a good cry over the loss of my athletic days, I realized that I had much more to offer the world than my ability to triple jump or play defense. Sure, I used to be sporty, but that was only a small part of my identity, not the whole of it. I was also a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, an artist, and a friend. I enjoyed reading, cooking, photography, and painting. I allowed those parts of my identity that I still had to replace the identity I had found in athletics. I am not who I once was, but that’s okay. Cancer changed me, and I changed with the cancer.

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