Letter to Self Part 1

Jay Campers

Many think cancer disappears when treatment is over and there is no evidence of disease, but for so many, the side effects last forever. Thank you to one courageous Epic Experience camper for sharing what cancer has taken away from them. 

This is why Epic Experience was founded: to provide a supportive community of people who understand what it’s like to live through treatment and beyond. 

Nancy Ferro Epic Experience Founder 

Dear Former Soccer Player, 

I miss you. And I think about you every day. Sometimes when I think back to my soccer days, I second guess myself. I think, “Wait was that me? Do I remember that correctly?” I don’t know why I have these thoughts because, of course, those memories I have about soccer and being athletic and active are true and real. 

I guess to be honest my life looks so differently than it did back when I could run and play soccer. I can’t do any of those things anymore. And it makes me sad. Every time I think about how much I loved soccer and playing, even though I wasn’t the greatest player, I get sad because I know I can’t ever be that person again. That is also probably why I second guess my memories from that time. Because the person I am today can’t do the things I once did every day. 

A couple of months ago I went to see an old high school friend and teammate play in her college soccer game. Being at that game and seeing her play made me so happy and also so sad. I could feel my eyes watering and my emotions coming through. At that moment I realized I

hadn’t thought about that part of my life in a long time. I hadn’t thought about how much I missed it. And boy do I miss it. I miss the feeling of being at practice every night and being with my teammates during the wins and the losses. I miss being able to stretch and have it actually feel good. When I stretch now, sure it feels good but if my ankle is pushed the wrong way…my foot cramps up and I am in pain.. again. It doesn’t feel as good as it used to. I miss shooting goals on the field by myself when I was frustrated. Even though at the time I hated always being on the bench, I miss those days of sitting on the bench with my teammates and making them laugh and encouraging them. I miss being in shape. I miss running…I never thought I would say that because as you know I hated cardio during practice. I miss the person I was when I was on the field. 

Cancer has taken all of these things from me. 

Granted, it didn’t take my life. I am still here, almost four years cancer free, which is a huge milestone. I am grateful and happy to still be living my life but I hate the body cancer left me. Hate is a strong word, I know. But living with this body, this “healthy” body is so hard. Day by day I live with this body. I walk with a cane. I struggle to use the stairs and often feel off balance doing daily activities. I fear that the next fall I have is going to be the worst one. During soccer I would fall and it wouldn’t hurt, and if it did I would get up and wear that bruise as a badge of honor. Now those falls are a reminder that I am someone different. Alive, but not the same person. 

The other day when I was talking with a coworker about weight gain/loss and my journey with cancer, I casually mentioned that the person I was before cancer was dead. And my coworker was like “Oh stop it, that’s not true.” And although she was right, sometimes I do feel that way. Every time I think back on my memories of soccer I feel separated from that person. Separated in a way that almost feels like

that person wasn’t real or not me. And that also makes me so sad because I was that person and I still am deep down. I was super fast on the field. I was the star benchwarmer, encouraging my teammates to win and making them laugh every day at practice. I was the player that helped the team win even though I was nowhere near as good as some of my other teammates. I loved the game wholeheartedly. I still do. I just don’t know how to think back on that time in my life without feeling profoundly sad. I mourn that soccer player and envy her athletic body. I go back and forth wanting to move on with my life and learn to love my body as it is at this moment, to hating my body and feeling sorry for myself. 

The truth is, I don’t know how to move on in a way that honors the person I once was. I want to acknowledge how much I have grown since cancer. I do believe I have turned into someone that is strong and beautiful. But is it okay to also hate the body that has brought me this far? Or maybe it isn’t that I hate my body, maybe it’s that I hate cancer so deeply. I wish it hadn’t taken this part of my life from me. I wish there was some way for me to bring soccer back into my life. Some way for me to honor the soccer player I once was and also acknowledge the person I am today. 

And that’s where I will end this letter for today. Hopeful that there is a way out there to keep the memory of you alive and also say goodbye.