"It's definitely made me into who I am, and I've learned that I need to embrace it a little more."
Or maybe even a lot. And it sure sounds as if Lewis, who as a youngster had to wear a back brace 18 hours a day for 7 1/2 years to correct curvature in her spine from scoliosis, is more than up to the responsibility.
"I didn't have an option with it, and so now it seems kind of strange that I'm a role model for all these people just by doing what I do," said Lewis, who finally underwent surgery to correct the problem after her senior year of high school. "And it was pretty weird for me. I went to the women's NCAA championship a couple weeks ago, and all these college girls, they were so nervous to meet me. And I was like just there 3 years ago [competing for Arkansas]. I don't think I'm that nervous of a person to talk to. I don't know. It just shocked me. I guess they'd just seen me on TV and hadn't met me before. They want to learn from me. They want to know what I did here and there. It's pretty cool that even kids in college are looking up to me . . . but it's also kind of strange . . .
"I do all kinds of charity work. I love helping people, so anything I can do I'm all for it. And I do get a lot of letters from kids and everything. I might have a bad day or something, and I check my email and I've got one from an 8-year-old girl somewhere that's inspired by my story. It kind of makes me think twice about, OK, my round really wasn't that bad and it doesn't really matter [anyway] in the whole scheme of things. So it puts perspective on what I do.
"I've seen that people are definitely starting to know who I am more. I can hear people saying, 'Oh, there's Stacy Lewis,' and things like that. But it's still pretty strange to me, because I'm just out there playing golf. I'm still the same person. I haven't really changed."
But her world has. Lewis, who added her second professional victory a month ago at the Mobile (Ala.) Bay Classic, has obviously established herself as one of the players to watch this weekend at the ShopRite LPGA Classic on the Bay Course of the Seaview Resort, even if she hasn't fared all that well here in the past.
After the first round on Friday, Lewis shared the lead with Mika Miyazato at 6-under 65.
There was a time in her life when all she wanted to be was "normal." Now, she's not only made something of herself, but she's among the best at what she does. It wasn't in the game plan.
"When I was growing up and had all my back issues, I didn't really see golf as a job, or as a career," said the Texas native, who now calls Florida home. "I didn't really watch golf on TV. My parents were my inspiration. They were there for me the whole way, just kind of guided me through.
"It's insane to me how far I've come. I won a bunch in college. But I mean, after I had surgery, I could barely sit up by myself. So to do this every day and to play, and not really have much pain, is a pretty good feeling.
"Golf was just something I did to get my education, get my scholarship. When I got to [Arkansas], I got a lot better. But golf was never - this is what I'm going to do the rest of my life. I didn't really have pain until after the surgery. Then I was kind of, like, why did I do this to myself? I swam a lot. I was pretty active. My doctor encouraged that. He told me to get out there and do whatever you're doing. Riding your bike, rollerblading, whatever."
At some point, golf took over. And her journey became a success worth sharing. She knows many others are trying to follow her lead.
"I think it's more common than people think," said Lewis, who was diagnosed at age 11. "A lot of people don't get it checked out. They have it as a kid, then they don't find it, and all of a sudden at 40 years old, they feel something in their back. By then, it's too late. I actually got it checked at school. They brought some nurses in, and all the kids went through a line and they found it. I was pretty lucky that they did.
"I didn't know what it was, or anybody that had it. I just wanted to show people that it's OK, put a face to it. It's hard, because it's not like it's a life-or-death thing. It's more about quality of life. That's why I had surgery, so I could get to bed every day."
The only issue she has now is the rod and six screws that will remain a part of her. As long as they don't get knocked out of place, she should be fine. And it would take something pretty rare and dramatic, such as perhaps being in an auto accident, for that to happen.
"The muscles kind of grow around the metal, so over time it's more and more solid," she explained. "If something were going to go wrong, it probably would've been right away. I tell people all the time, it's temporary. It's not going to be the rest of your life. Do what your doctor says, wear your brace for a couple of years, and it's over with.
"I think they see me, know I had surgery and it's all right. More than anything, I just want them to know they're not the only ones. Because that's what I felt like, I was the only one in the world, and I didn't want anyone to know I had it. I just want them to know they're not alone.
"I've kind of partnered a little bit with the Scoliosis Research Society, to keep building awareness. The more people that know about it just makes it seem less [imposing]."
So she'll spread the word, whenever and wherever, even if the subject matter occasionally does get repititious.
"I have probably a handful, 10 to 15, who I gave my personal email, so they keep me updated [on their situation]," Lewis said. "I can't do it for everybody, but . . .
"My mom always told me that everything happens for a reason, and that everything you go through makes you the person that you are, whether it's good or bad. She kept telling me I was going to have a pretty good story, when she'd be telling me to put on that stupid brace. And she said nobody else would have that story. Now it's a pretty good story.
"I think it shapes who you become. I think without all my back stuff, I wouldn't be where I am right now."
It's the kind of ending that should only get better with age.
Contact Mike Kern at firstname.lastname@example.org.