Meet Nina Calabria
I am on a new path now, healthy, and surrounded by new friends, some old friends, and new experiences.
Three years prior, I had just completed my first horse show at the local fairground. I was never really interested in showing, but I wanted to see if I had what it took to be a competitor. I had done better than I expected for my first show, even earning some blue ribbons. It felt good participating, but the weekend seemed to drain every ounce of energy from my body. I was finishing up spring soccer and 6th grade at the same time, so maybe it was just a lot. However, the fatigue continued. The following week, my doctor ran some tests, and I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. My long journey had begun.
Between the ages of twelve and fifteen, I was in and out of Golisano Children’s Hospital while my doctor and her team tried to kill my cancer cells without killing me. I had pictures of Dublin, most from our first show, all over my hospital room along with pictures from soccer and my family and friends. I was surrounded by countless people helping me and telling me that soon I would be back in tip-top shape and riding Dublin. As I improved and regained some of my strength, I could not wait to get back to the barn. In August of 2019, I finally got cleared to return to my favorite sport – just two short months before I was declared cancer free and off treatment.
Yet, something was off. I knew riding would be a challenge physically (my muscles and joints had seen better days), but mentally I was starting to see a different path. As I restarted my riding lessons, part of me wanted desperately to be on that horse, but I also felt a sense of what I can only think was nostalgia. It was like coming to the end of a team season or finishing middle school and moving on to high school: I was sad to let go of good times, but all the while excited for a change; to start making new memories. I felt I had to move on and start fresh – which meant leaving Dublin.
That’s why I was crying, sitting in that dusty rubber. This emotional release was my accepting that cancer had changed my life, but it was okay; I was okay. I had spent so long worrying that my diagnosis would define who I was, that I hadn’t realized that it has shaped who I am. It has made me stronger and more aware of life’s struggles, and that it is okay to fall sometimes, as long as you get back up.
I am on a new path now, healthy, and surrounded by new friends, some old friends, and new experiences. I look forward to what lies ahead for me and one day visiting Dublin to tell him all about it.