Send Kristin to Kona: Living a Life With Cancer

Send Kristin to Kona: Living a Life With Cancer
Photo by Donald Miralle: An aerial view of the mass swim start of nearly 2000 triathletes during the 2012 IRONMAN World Championships on October 13, 2012 in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The Ironman is considered one of the worlds most grueling races, comprising of a 3.86 km swim, a 180.25 km bicycle race, and a 42.195 km marathon, with a strict 17-hour time limit.

On one hand, Kristin McQueen is living a life with cancer that embodies courage. She is a hero. On the other, Kristin McQueen is living a life with cancer the only way she can. Kristin runs. Actually, she swims and bikes and runs.

She dreams of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles. All in the same day. In Hawaii. And if she gets a spot in the Ironman Kona, she’ll do it with a “Suck it, Cancer” sign on her back. But, she’ll only be able to do it if you help.

Lest you think this dream is too big–this is the world championship of Ironman races after all–you should know that she has already competed in 9 Ironman events as well as 17 marathons. The problem for Kristin at the moment isn’t ability or performance. It’s about winning 1 of 7 slots, which is determined by a contest called Kona Inspired. The theme this year is “Anything is Possible.” Folks vying for slots in Ironman Kona have posted videos that you and I can view and, then can vote on. We can vote once per day for as many days as we want through May 7th.

Kristin’s life with cancer isn’t at all like my life with cancer. I am in remission, for one thing, and Kristin is not. And my treatments, including surgery, were really no big deal. I’ve only missed three days of work and have no long-term physical side effects. But, let me tell you about Kristin.

She was diagnosed with metastatic thyroid cancer in 2003. She’s endured 5 neck surgeries and 9 brain surgeries as well as 2 rounds of radiation. She’s facing a 10th brain surgery on April 30th. I think that “endurance” has become somewhat of a theme for Kristin.

When I think about training for the Gold Nugget Triathlon, I’m stunned by what Kristin is doing and has done. The Gold Nugget is a sprint distance event. Even with a short swim, a 12-mile bike ride and a 5K, I was delighted to just finish. And, I didn’t have cancer at the time.

The Ironman events are “ultra distance,” ending with a full marathon, and Kristin completed all 9 after her first brain surgeries for cancer. She completed one Ironman four days after her 8th surgery, and 3 weeks after the 9th surgery.

For many folks with cancer, the complications from treatment are the worst part. Think about the ones that Kristin deals with: partial vocal cord paralysis, balance problems, hearing loss, vision loss, chronic pain, and shoulder damage. To top it off, radiation treatment is now off the table because her cancer is now resistant to it.

Maybe you wonder why a person dealing with all of this would want to add the Ironman Kona to the list. Kristin says it eloquently, “When I run or bike…I’m able to escape cancer for awhile.”

Along the way she has also raised $122,759 for the American Cancer Society.

When cancer has moved in and taken up residence, the weight of mortality is hard to bear and the persistent whisper of fear is almost impossible to silence. Kristin lives her life with cancer by running and biking and swimming, and in doing this she finds some peace.

Kristin, I don’t know you, but knowing that you’re running and biking and swimming gives me some peace, too.

Please vote for Kristin’s video. Now. And tomorrow. And again tomorrow.

And, ask your friends and your mother and your kid’s roommate and your book group to vote for Kristin’s video, too.

You can vote right here by clicking on these words.


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