DeeDee Jonrowe, Kikkan Randall have heart-to-heart after cancer diagnosis

WILLOW, Alaska (KTUU) - It doesn't matter how you say it, cancer is a word that is shocking to the very core.

Unless you've battled it yourself, it's hard to know how it feels to fight the disease, and what to say to those now in the fight.

When Iditarod veteran musher and breast cancer survivor DeeDee Jonrowe heard about Kikkan Randall's fight with the disease, her heart broke.

"When I first read about it, I was just like, 'Oh no. I am so sorry,'" she said.

Jonrowe was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. She watched it take her mother in 2015. She says coming to terms with the diagnosis is the hardest part.

"Because we've been told cancer comes because of all the things that we've done wrong. But that's a misnomer. Cancer comes because cancer comes," Jonrowe said.

She reached out to Randall last week and had a heart-to-heart with the Olympian, who is just coming off winning a gold medal in cross country skiing in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Jonrowe said the thing she emphasized the most is to not put so much pressure on yourself during treatment.

"Just know, all of that is temporary and all of that is part of the treatment because you gotta give yourself a break," she said. "Everybody else is giving you a break but the person that's most hard on you is probably yourself."

Randall has already expressed how thankful she is for all the love and support she's received since announcing her fight with breast cancer. Jonrowe hopes she knows everyone is here for her.

"That's one thing I wanted Kikkan to know. I'm here," she said. "Call me. Day or night. Wake me up."

Jonrowe said when she was going through breast cancer, it helped to have the support of other survivors. She said it was comforting to know someone understood and she didn't have to explain herself.

"All we can do as the person that has to fight through it is to encourage and help each other and step out and be there. And I think Kikkan has definitely stepped out by saying, 'Look, this is a fight I'm in right after a gold medal,'" she said. " 'Right after the top of what Alaska and the whole United States and the world had to offer, this happened to me as well.' To me, that's an extremely brave statement. "

But at the end of the day, Jonrowe hopes this is what she can give to other people fighting cancer: Hope.

"If only I can help somebody for a little while, then that's what I have to offer," Jonrowe said. "Because it's not through any strength of my own that I was able to survive this, at this point."

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