‘The old Kikkan’ gives way to cancer treatment and hair loss
Part 2, July: Cancer begins to reshape Kikkan Randall’s identity, changing her gold medal persona. By Marc Lester
Second of six parts
Weeks before Kikkan Randall felt ready to share her new reality with the public, even some former teammates, she shared it with a customs officer at the U.S.-Canada border.
In May, Randall was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, a form of breast cancer. It was discovered in a lymph node too, she found out later, meaning her cancer was stage 2.
But the world still thought of her as only a ski champion. She had just finished a 20-year cross-country skiing career by winning America’s first Olympic gold medal in the sport. It would take time before she was ready to break the spell.
In June, when few people knew, Randall felt like a drug smuggler at the border, as she crossed to fetch fertility drugs that a clinic couldn’t ship to her new home in Canada. In the overwhelming weeks before chemotherapy began, she hoped to preserve her chances for more children by storing embryos.
“As soon as I said breast cancer, he just went white,” she said of the border official. “And he kind of went, ‘You can go.’ ”
Her cancer remained difficult to discuss, even after she announced the news on social media in July. Weeks later, she spoke to a business luncheon at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center. It had been her plan after retiring from racing to bring audiences the identity she later referred to as “the old Kikkan.” She wanted to tell the story of the long road to triumph.
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