Olympic gold medalist Kikkan Randall has been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer.
The 35-year-old cross-country skier known for pink-highlighted hair said Wednesday on social media that "the color pink has taken on a new chapter" in her life. She said the prognosis is good, but she expects life to change significantly in the months ahead.
"I am going to bring as much tenacity, strength, and energy toward this challenge as I have throughout my entire career," she wrote.
Randall, the most accomplished American cross-country skier ever, made good on her nickname "Kikkanimal" by riding her bike to and from her first round of chemo Monday in Anchorage, Alaska, her hometown before she moved earlier this year to Penticton, British Columbia, with her 2-year-son, Breck, and husband Jeff Ellis. She said she woke up Wednesday feeling "fairly decent still."
The response to her news has been comforting, she said, with people rallying around her. A group of Anchorage friends even accompanied her to her first chemo appointment.
"You always want to celebrate the gold medals together, but you know, in a way, you really see the strength of the whole community when they come to your aid when you're having a tough time," she told The Associated Press.
The pink in Randall's hair has faded, but there's a good chance she will dye the color back in during the coming days. If her hair ends up falling out because of the chemo, they'd find a "fun way" to put the pink back, she said.
Randall is a five-time Olympian who returned to competition in 2016 after a break and delivered the first Olympic gold in cross-country for the U.S. with relay team partner Jessica Diggins at the Pyeongchang Games in February.
She is the only American woman to win season-long World Cup titles, taking home three sprint titles. She has won 14 individual World Cup races.
After she completed her fourth Winter Games, in Sochi, Randall decided it was the right time to have a baby. So at age 32, she planned accordingly. She figured she could give birth then return to competition and qualified for Pyeongchang.
Randall will undergo six rounds of chemo every three weeks. She will stay with her parents for the next three weeks to see how she fares. If all goes well, she hopes to travel back and forth between Anchorage and Canada between rounds to be with her son and husband.
She said she has weathered past "bumps in the road," like a blood clot she was treated for a decade ago, by reaching out to others.
"Being able to share my experiences really helped me kind of process it and find the good," she said.