CLEVELAND- Camryn Colahan, a senior at Vermilion High School in Vermillion, Ohio, overcame major medical obstacles to return to playing competitive sports. Colahan will be honored with the Cleveland Clinic Sports MedicineCourage Award during the 21st Greater Cleveland Sports Awards presented by Medical Mutual and Ancora on Thursday, March 4, 2021, aired on WKYC TV 3, wkyc.com and SportsTime Ohio.
As a freshman, Colahan had lettered in varsity volleyball, basketball and track. In 2018, as a sophomore, she was beginning her fourth year on a national level Junior Olympic Volleyball team when Colahan discovered a lump on her inner thigh.
The lump started to cause her some discomfort. Immediately following her sectional championship volleyball match, she was taken to Cleveland Clinic Children’s for testing, including an MRI and biopsy. Colahan, who was 15 years old at the time, was diagnosed with Stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of soft-tissue cancer.
In the days following her diagnosis, the Colahan family met with doctors at Cleveland Clinic Children's, who put together a treatment plan that included intensive chemotherapy for 10 months and intensive proton beam radiation therapy.
While she was still able to attend school during treatment, she was not able to participate in any sports because of fatigue and the time commitment for chemotherapy.
By mid-March of 2019, Colahan started to experience second and third-degree burns from the radiation. During the last few weeks of treatment, she needed the assistance of a wheelchair to aide with movement due to her wounds.
“So many of our patients are such incredible fighters, but what makes Cam stand out is that she makes her fight look easy, “said Stacey Zahler, M.D., Cleveland Clinic Children’s pediatric hematologist-oncologist. “She has treated cancer like a match against the toughest volleyball team – with such strength and determination, but yet, simultaneously with such grace and poise. She does not complain. She always has her game face on, and she perseveres.”
She began physical therapy in November 2019 to strengthen her coordination and footwork due to side effects from radiation, including significant skin and muscle damage.
“It was very frustrating during the season because I was not even close to being as good as I was the season before,” says Colahan. “I still managed to go to practice every day and work my hardest to get back. Running was a challenge because of how weak my body had become. To put it in perspective, I only played 30 seconds of our first game and I was exhausted.”
In January 2021, Colahan’s family shared she had completed her maintenance treatment and her scans continue to show no evidence of disease. Colahan completed nearly two years of chemotherapy.
“As I’ve gone through all of this, I have realized what life is about,” said Colahan. “It’s not about how many followers you have on Instagram, it’s all about how you think of things and knowing that you shouldn’t take anything for granted. Anything can be taken from you at any point. Enjoy every moment you have, and surround yourself with people that you love and make you happy.”
Colahan lives with Brett and Aimee, her parents, and her three siblings. She is on the varsity volleyball and basketball teams. Colahan recently committed to play on the women's volleyball team at Wittenberg University and plans to study psychology.
The Cleveland Clinic Sports MedicineCourage Award is given to an athlete who displays courage beyond the boundaries of their playing field, in order to inspire those around them.
Greater Cleveland Sports Awards is the premier annual sports fundraiser supporting Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. This year’s show will not only feature the traditional celebration of athletic achievements, but also themes of humanity, courage and community focus throughout the show.
Colahan video on the basketball court below.
Packages and tickets are available for purchase at clevelandsportsawards.com.
Recipients of the Courage Award presented by Cleveland Clinic Sports Medicine include:
2020 – Camryn Colahan, Vermillion, Volleyball and Basketball
2019 – Skylar Scarnecchia, Champion Township, Basketball, Soccer, Track & Field and Volleyball
2018 – Sophia Pecjak, Mentor, Soccer and Basketball
2017 – Samer Babi, North Olmsted, Football
2016 – Kendra Seitz, Hudson, Competitive Swimming
2015 – Colin Teets, Westlake, Hockey
2014 – Nick Lenyo, Huron, Football
2013 – Courteney Belmonte, Westlake, Competitive Cheerleading
2012 – Molly Miller, Notre Dame Academy, Soccer
2011 – Brandee Kelly, Cleveland State University, Basketball
2010 – Olivia Warhop, Hathaway Brown School, Swimming and Soccer
2009 – Gyasi Cooper, St. Ignatius High School, Track & Field
2008 – Eric Anderson, Jr., Gilmour Academy, Basketball
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