Meet our latest Sea-Band Hero: FIVE time US Olympian Kikkan Randall
Meet our latest Sea-Band Hero: FIVE time US Olympian Kikkan Randall. Kikkan an Olympic champion in cross country skier is currently battling Breast Cancer. A wife and mother of a toddler, she remains optimistic, positive and active since being diagnosed earlier this year with Breast Cancer. Here’s her story:
For the past two decades, I have been chasing after my dream of winning an Olympic gold medal in cross-country skiing. This past February, together with my teammate Jessie Diggins, that dream finally came true for our American team. Jessie and I teamed up to win America’s first-ever gold medal in PyeongChang. It was a storybook ending to my 20 year ski racing career as I had planned to retire at the close of the season. Just two months later, I was looking forward to developing new goals and new passions when I discovered two small lumps in my breast and was soon diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. Talk about going from an incredible high to an incredible low!
From those initial days after I got my diagnosis, I knew I was going to battle this Cancer just like I had battled through all the challenges of my athletic career: with optimism, positivity and physical activity. This time I would have less control than I was used to, but I still had an incredible support team behind me and a lot of reasons to stay positive and motivated. Because we caught the Cancer early my prognosis was good and with aggressive treatment, we were confident I could get past this.
I was diagnosed with Triple Positive Stage 2B Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Because of the size of my tumor and at least one positive lymph node, we decided to go with neo-adjuvant chemotherapy first, followed by surgery and radiation. One of my biggest concerns once we started talking about chemo was my future ability to have children. I have a two-year-old son and my husband and I was hoping to have one more child. So before I started my chemo I was able to do a round of fertility treatment with Seattle Reproductive Medicine to preserve an embryo as a backup measure should the chemo knock out my natural fertility. Wrapping my head around not being able to have another child right away has been one of the toughest parts of my Cancer diagnosis so far. So I’m at least a little relieved to have a backup plan.
On July 9 I started chemotherapy. I’ve been getting infusions every three weeks since and will be going in for my sixth and final infusion next week. Overall my treatment has gone pretty well. I usually have some crummy days the first week and by midway, thru the second week, I get back to feeling pretty normal again. I lost my hair at the end of my first round. When I noticed it starting to fall out I had my head shaved. In round two I caught a cold from my son and that really knocked me down for most of that round. Most of my other rounds I have felt relatively good after that first week and have been able to stay quite active and productive.
After I finish chemotherapy, my next phase of treatment will be surgery. I’m scheduled for a lumpectomy in mid-November and once I recover from that surgery, I will start my radiation treatments.
While I still have a long ways to go, I’ve been through almost 100 days of treatment thus far and I am making good progress!
Each round I’ve been trying to stay active every day. Somedays a short jog or easy bike ride is all I feel up for. But other days I’ve been able to hammer out interval sessions, hard strength circuits and I even set a course record in a local running race at the end of round 4. I’ve found getting out and being active as much as I can help me feel normal, helps my body handle the treatment and gives me the mental boost of doing what I love.
There have certainly been tough days so far and times when I let my negative emotions build up in my head. I’ve experienced feelings of frustration and anger, sadness and helplessness. But each time I feel those thoughts start to build up, I acknowledge the thoughts and then reframe my attention to solutions, gratitude and controlling what I can control. I’ve found exercise, proper rest and good nutrition help me stay positive and when I neglect those things, it’s a lot harder to fend off the negative thoughts.
I started working with AKTIV Against Cancer in 2012 because I wholeheartedly believe in their mission to keep people active through their Cancer treatment as a means for making their treatment as effective as it can be and also providing camaraderie and support. Every year when the World Cup circuit would stop in Oslo, Norway I would visit with the AKTIV patients and it was always so inspiring to see their courage, strength and positive spirits. Now that I am a cancer patient myself, I knew physical activity would be important for me and I wanted to use my experience as inspiration to others.
When you’re battling something big and scary like Cancer or other big obstacles in life, it’s important to stay focused on the things you can control and always find positive things in your life to give you hope, strength and motivation. I play with my son and it reminds me to fight this challenge with everything I have and to also enjoy every moment I get with my family. Taking control of the things you can do to keep yourself feeling as healthy as possible (activity, nutrition, rest, etc.) will help you feel better and get the satisfaction of doing something to get better.
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