Meet Colby Atkinson
"To me survivorship means that you have weathered a storm and come out a different person. Some storms are small, like a thunderstorm, and some storms are gigantic, like a hurricane."
Being diagnosed with cancer was the storm that wasn’t on anyone’s radar and no one saw coming. I mean, I was a healthy 14 year old teenager who was strong and played football. Needless to say, my family was not prepared for this storm. When I was first diagnosed, I was in the intensive care unit for 10 days. My family felt like we were sucked up in a tornado and were just being spun around and around. Our heads were spinning with all of the information and trying to process our new reality. Once our feet touched the ground, it didn’t take long for everyone to come together in unity to weather the storm and believe that I was going to survive cancer. The first two months of treatment flew by and I naively thought, “this is easy” as I was experiencing minimal side effects and still had my hair! This was just the calm before the storm, because as time passed and I had to take stronger chemotherapies to try and go into remission, I started to not feel well, and became weaker and weaker, and sicker and sicker. Surviving my bone marrow transplant was like surviving a tsunami as it wiped me out and I was barely hanging onto life.
Being a survivor means that you have made it through a physical, emotional and spiritual storm. I have had to face my fears and deal with the reality of not playing the sports that I once loved. Cancer ravaged my body and has caused irreversible damage and mobility issues for me. Surviving means adjusting to life after the damage of the storm. Despite my mobility issues, I was determined to continue being involved with football and baseball. Cancer may have closed the door on playing sports but it opened the door of opportunity for me to become a coach. During my senior year, I became a student coach for the football team. Throughout the season, I looked at football through the lens of a coach and not a player. My experience of working with players, analyzing film, providing feedback, mentoring young players and giving encouragement when it was most needed has shaped my future goals. I am interested in pursuing a career as a sports coach like I was for my high school football team, which I helped lead to winning a second state championship. I walked in the shoes of a player for several years and want to keep walking in the shoes of a coach for many years to come.
Despite the damage of the storm, I have a fresh perspective on life. I make the most of every single day. I know how quickly a life can be changed and unfortunately have seen how quickly life can be taken away, often at a young age. I have always been a strong person full of life and happiness, but now I see everything a little different after chemotherapy and radiation treatments. My scars are a reminder of how brave and strong I am. Every day may not be good, but there is good in every day and that is what I focus on every morning that I wake up.