Resilience in the Form of a Cancer Warrior
- Cervical cancer warrior Kat Cordiner, 41, and two other women just rowed a 3,000 nautical mile journey crossing from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to English Harbour on the island of Antigua to become the fastest all female trio to cross the Atlantic.
- Cordiner is currently fighting cervical cancer, but right now she’s doing well and focused on living every day to its fullest.
- Cervical cancer begins in the cells lining the cervix – the lower part of the womb (uterus). Treatment options for cervical cancer include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. HPV (human papillomavirus), a sexually-transmitted virus, causes more than 70% of cervical cancer cases.
Cordiner, along with her teammates Abby Johnstone and Charlotte Irving, just completed the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – a 3,000 nautical mile crossing from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to English Harbour on the island of Antigua. The three British women finished the row in 42 days, seven hours and 17 minutes, crushing the previous record by seven days.Read More
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“Official photos to follow but Team Extraoardinary are official world record holders and are safely back on dry land in Antigua,” the caption read. “It has been a rollercoaster but they’ve absolutely smashed it – breaking the record by over seven days! As the organisers said yesterday, impossible is nothing.”
Cordiner’s Cancer Journey
While completing that journey was a serious challenge all on its own, Cordiner, 41, had to overcome many obstacles before embarking on her journey. She found out she had cervical cancer in 2019 by chance after having just spent 31 days sailing across the North Pacific. The diagnosis came when she was undergoing egg retrieval and doctors noticed something off so they took a biopsy that revealed her cancer.
“Having just returned from the adventure of a lifetime, sailing across the Pacific Ocean and with future plans already in the making, receiving the diagnosis of cervical cancer came as a huge blow to me,” the rowing team’s website reads. “In that moment, I knew my life had been changed forever.”
Following her diagnosis, Cordiner admits she felt a rollercoaster of emotions.
“You’re mad, you’re sad, you cry, you’re angry, you’re shocked, you’re tired – and then it starts over again,” she wrote. “I am incredibly fortunate to have a great support network of friends and family who were there for me from day one. I also had an outstanding team of consultants and nurses who helped me through diagnosis, surgeries and treatment.”
From there, she underwent a radical hysterectomy and achieved remission. But, in a devastating turn of events, her cancer would return in summer 2020 during the pandemic.
She then had chemotherapy and immunotherapy every three weeks and underwent a period of six weeks of daily radiation therapy. Still, she would be faced with another unforeseen health challenge when doctors noticed something wrong between her chemo and radiation treatments: a benign – but dangerous – cardiac tumor. She had that tumor removed after radiation in February 2021.
But despite all of the ups and downs of her cancer journey, Cordiner stayed strong with her eyes on the prize. She even trained for the row throughout chemotherapy, though she did have to stop in November 2020 because of her heart tumor. Still, as soon as she could, she got back to it with enough time to ready her body for the journey ahead.
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So, why did she take on such a perilous journey after everything she’s been through? There was a mixture of reasons, as you can imagine, but refusing to become just “the person with cancer” was one of them.
“I was told I have years not decades, so it’s really about you know fulfilling like the things that I want to do and proving that you can do it,” she said in a Life Happens podcast episode. “It’s almost like putting the ‘can’ in cancer.”
Understanding Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer begins in the cells lining the cervix – the lower part of the womb (uterus). Treatment options for cervical cancer include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. HPV (human papillomavirus), a sexually-transmitted virus, causes more than 70% of cervical cancer cases. It’s important to note, however, that other risk factors like smoking can make you about twice as likely to get cervical cancer as those who don’t smoke.
The American Cancer Society estimates that the United States will see about 14,100 new cases of invasive cervical cancer in 2022. Cervical cancer screening is critically important because an earlier diagnosis can mean a better prognosis with broader treatment options. The American Cancer Society recommends that cervical cancer screening begins at age 25, and people aged 25 to 65 should have a primary HPV test, an HPV test done by itself for screening, every 5 years. If primary HPV testing is not available, however, screening may be done with either a co-test that combines an HPV test with a Papanicolaou (Pap) test every 5 years or a Pap test alone every 3 years.
The most common symptoms of cervical cancer can include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding after vaginal sex, bleeding after menopause, after douching, bleeding and spotting in between periods or having heavier or longer (menstrual) periods than usual.
- Unusual discharge from the vagina that may contain some blood and may occur between your periods or after menopause.
- Pain during sex.
- Pain in the pelvic region.
The Resilience of Cancer Warriors
At SurvivorNet, we get to share stories of resilience all the time because there’s no shortage of brave cancer warriors holding onto hope in the face of adversity and achieving amazing things.
Danielle Ripley-Burgess, a two-time colon cancer survivor, is another resilient cancer survivor like Cordiner. She was first diagnosed with colon cancer in high school and proceeded to beat the disease not once, but twice. Understandably so, Ripley-Burgess has had to work through a lot of complex emotions that came with her cancer journey. Even still, she’s always managed to look at life with a positive attitude.
“As I’ve worked through the complex emotions of cancer, I’ve uncovered some beautiful things: Wisdom. Love. Life purpose. Priorities,” she preiously told SurvivorNet. “I carry a very real sense that life is short, and I’m grateful to be living it! This has made me optimistic. Optimism doesn’t mean that fear, pain and division don’t exist – they do. Our world is full of negativity, judgment, and hate. Optimism means that I believe there’s always good to be found despite the bad, and this is what my life is centered around.”
She moves through life with a sense of purpose unique to someone who’s been faced with the darkest of times. Happily in remission today, she’s determined to, one day, leave the world better than she found it.
“We can choose to stay positive, treat others with respect and look for the light in spite of the darkness,” she said. “This type of attitude and behavior will lead to the kind of legacies I believe all of us hope to leave.”