What is the art of living?

"I think the art of living is trying to remain graceful no matter what your circumstances.  It's really easy to get pulled into the darkness. I try to start every day by being appreciative."

How did you become aware that you had cancer?

"I went for a colonoscopy on a Monday and I was supposed to be leaving for a big surf trip on Saturday.  All week I just had this feeling.  I had been looking stuff up and I just had a feeling.  On Friday I left school and the doctor called and said 'please come to the office.'  I stopped at home and saw my bag packed for my trip to the Seychelles and I knew I wasn't going.  I walked to the doctor's office and he told me I had colon cancer."

What moves you forward?

"I think a huge piece of what's moving me forward has been helping other people.  Sometimes I get exhausted and I think I'm on this roller coaster.  It's been almost four years.  They didn't think I'd live past three months - and that was a generous offer.  I've heard this phrase - 'you're a survivor the day you're diagnosed because you've survived the diagnosis.'  There's a lot of truth to that.

What does it mean to live gracefully?

"Being graceful is not allowing yourself to be angry.  Trying not to be bitter.  I try to remind myself that any day I'm alive is a gift - even if it's a hard day.   It's hard to stay graceful.  It's hard to stay in the light - especially when you're in pain.  Lately it's been a very hard patch."

How do you do it?

"By the strength of my family and trying to take it one day at a time.  Not looking too far in the future. My aunt always tells me - 'don't future trip.'  So I try to stay in the moment.  This is a great moment.   It's all about balance."

2015_12_20 19_17_54 _BB10105-Edit.jpg

Describe Balance.

"I stay balanced by any time I have a negative thought I try to counter it with a good one.  If I feel myself slipping to the negative I try to fill my mind with thoughts that bring me back to the light.  It's naive to think that I can always be on the bright side of things, but I try to ride that line.  I wish I didn't always have to be on that edge.  But I realize that even before cancer I have always lived my life on the edge of balance - moving and traveling and throwing myself into things. With a disease it's a lot harder, but it's also more rewarding."

Do you remember the first time you found balance on a bicycle?

"I do.  I was with my dad.  He was so proud. And when he let go I went right off the road, right into a bush."

What moves you?

"Love moves me.  Family, Traveling.  Those things move me.  Finding great people in the world. Being on a paddle board when it's super calm, and it just drifts and is so peaceful.  Watching my nephew sleep.  I'm always in awe of kids.  Seeing my niece's face at a concert -- just pure joy and laughing.  I'm in awe of people's strength and how people can overcome things.  I'm in awe of life and how complicated and beautiful and tragic it is all at the same time."

What have you learned along the way?

"Don't take joy for granted.  Because there are going to be some really crappy things in life.  But there's also going to be a lot of joy.  Don't ever take it for granted.

My biggest fear - if I do die from cancer - is that people are going to say 'she lost her battle' - that the cancer won.  I don't think that.  I don't believe if you die from cancer you lost your battle.  I think it's the way you live with cancer.  The way you accept your diagnosis and try your best to rise above it.  Physically, mentally, emotionally.  That's the way you survive cancer.  And I am a survivor.  I'll never lose my battle - I've been winning."

_KM10492.jpg

Kristen McRedmond is a pre-kindergarten teacher and colon cancer survivor.   To learn more about Kristen's battle with cancer visit her blog here.

Kristen participated in our film highlighting the stories of colorectal cancer survivors, caregivers and the support organization, Michael's Mission.