UMSL alumna reclaims her life after winning her battle with colon cancer

by | May 13, 2015

After her 33rd birthday in January of 2014, Christianah Akinduro decided it was time to take her life back.
UMSL alumna Christianah Akinduro has reclaimed her life after surviving colon cancer and is now making fitness a part of her life. (Photo by August Jennewein)

UMSL alumna Christianah Akinduro has reclaimed her life after surviving colon cancer. She’s since made fitness a big part of her life. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Twelve years ago, Christianah Akinduro was an undergraduate student at the University of Missouri–St. Louis when she received devastating news. Now, back at UMSL in a different role, she’s reclaiming her life.

Akinduro moved to the United States with her family from Nigeria when she was 7 years old. She attended Mehlville High School in south St. Louis County and then St. Louis Community College at Meramec before transferring to UMSL.

“At UMSL I majored in communication, but because I didn’t really know anyone I decided to try out for a play,” she said. “I fell in love with theater, acting, set design, and that’s where I fit.”

Things were going great for Akinduro. In addition to school and theater, she was a member of a local track and field team. But during a competition in 2003, she remembers feeling bad after finishing.

“I felt this sharp pain in my abdomen, like a stabbing pain,” she said. “My mom looked back and saw that I was sweating and hunched over.”

She was taken to the emergency room, where doctors discovered four large polyps in her colon. They were cancerous. She had immediate surgery to remove them and began chemotherapy right away.

“I was 22, and it was the worst year of my life,” said Akinduro, a resident of Fenton, Mo. “I took chemo pills, and was sick all of the time. I lost a lot of weight. I lost my hair. But I continued to go to school. For me it was hard as a young adult not feeling beautiful, not wanting to do anything.”

A year later she underwent another surgery to have polyps removed, all while continuing to battle sickness, fatigue and depression. She pushed on, earning her bachelor’s degree in communication from UMSL in 2007 and then earned a master’s in communication from Webster University in 2013.

After her 33rd birthday in January of 2014, Akinduro decided it was time to take her life back. She was cancer free, words she still has a hard time saying. She wanted to be healthy again and prove to herself she was strong.

She began working in the University Marketing and Communications office at UMSL.  Returning to that place where she was first diagnosed inspired her.

“I want to change my life. I decided that I wanted to do a fitness competition,” Akinduro said. “I am cancer free today because of God giving me the strength to fight this disease. I still have times when I feel sick, when I have pain. I just don’t want to live in fear anymore, so I decided this was my year.”

She found a trainer and began working out, three times a day. She also started a strict diet.

After spending 2014 getting healthy again both physically and mentally, she took part in two events that symbolized her new take on life.

She participated in the Fight for Air Climb sponsored by the American Lung Association and climbed 40 flights of stairs.

“I decided to do the climb because it wasn’t me competing against other people, it was me competing against myself,” she said. “This year was very eye-opening for me, because I didn’t feel pretty, I didn’t believe in myself and I didn’t think I’d live a long life. The climb was about me beating everything that I’ve gone through and being thankful I’m alive.”

In April, she competed in the International Figure Body Building Competition in St. Charles, Mo., where she was judged on muscle mass and definition.

“It wasn’t about placing. It was about building my body strong and building my self esteem,” Akinduro said. “I’ve taken my life back and it feels good.”

She plans to continue training and would like to continue to compete.

“I feel like this is a lifestyle God intended for me,” she said. “This is the Christianah I want to be – healthy, strong, not sick and not scared.”

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Jen Hatton

Jen Hatton