Climbing the Mountain of Cancer

by Kristin Knerr


I am honored that Provision Project has asked me to tell my story. This project is very close to my heart, and it’s a privilege to be a part of this group of women who have inspired me and encouraged me so much.

I don’t want to tell the story of my diagnosis or my journey through the battlefield. My story is most likely much like yours. The devastating phone call, the destruction of body, mind, and spirit. The confusion, the sorrow, the suffering, the agonizing pain. The coming undone.

What I want is to give you the most valuable weapon you must have if you are to survive and move on again. I want to give you hope. I want you to know in your darkest and loneliest of hours, that you will come out the other side again. In the burning away of all that you are and possess, do not let go of your hope. The sun is going to shine, your hair is going to grow back, you will laugh out loud, and you will grow strong once again, I promise. I will never say, “Don’t give up,” because I did, one thousand times. Victory isn’t in the not giving up. It’s in the getting up, over and over again. I don’t recall ever thinking that cancer would be the death of me, but I certainly do remember thinking that despair would. Connect yourself to other survivors because they understand, and they need you to survive as well. I am here with you. My name is in the link here somewhere, and I want you to friend me or message me. Take my hand, I’ll go with you as far as I am able. When you want to give up, I’ll stand in the gap for you.

After I finished treatment, I was left with some significant physical disabilities. I was not able to walk very well and suffered a severe spinal cord injury. I would wake up in the mornings, and the first thought I would have was, “I can’t” and I would cry myself out of bed. It took almost two years to be able to walk normally and a lot of physical therapy, but here I am, on the other side.

A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to climb Mount Tetakawai located in Sonora, Mexico, surrounded by the Sea of Cortez. I was accompanied by my daughter, grandson, and a precious friend who has stayed with me through it all. Funny thing about mountains, they don’t look very intimidating when you see them from a distance. But when you stand at the base of them and look up, it appears insurmountable. I think being on the cancer battle field is a lot like climbing that mountain.

Mount Tetakawai isn’t an exceptionally large mountain, but it is technical and complicated. There are large sections of shale and slate with razor sharp edges. There are a few sections of rock that you can’t actually climb but can sort of throw your body over them. How did I climb that mountain? One rock at a time. I stopped and rested a few times, but I kept going. I came to a few spots that made me laugh because I knew there was no possible way I was strong enough to get through it, but I did. The love and encouragement from those that were with me got me over the top of several boulders. When I looked up at the mountain looming overhead, I knew I couldn’t do it, but when I looked at each rock as its own challenge, I knew I could do that. Let me tell you, the view from the top defies description. I was somehow changed inside, standing on the highest point, witnessing the way the ocean met the sky.

Keep going. Keep reaching up and forward, and keep your eyes on the little obstacles in front of you because before you know it, you will be at the top without even knowing how you really got there. Be courageous, be fierce, and most of all, be full of hope.