by MIKAELA MOHR, Miss Winona
Memory can be a funny thing. Truly, it can bring an array of emotions to life within seconds: joy, laughter, happiness, and even hardship. I remember so many things from when I was younger, fishing at the Winona lakes, dancing in the willow trees down by the park, reading by the Wenonah Fountain in the middle of town. I even remember when Shopko was a thing! It is your memories that build the foundation of who you are as a person, good or bad. However, it’s within, how you move forward from and choose to remember those memories, that helps you grow as an individual.
February 14, 2013, fifth grade. My day consisted of wearing anything I could find that was pink or red and eating way too many pieces of candy from a brown paper bag. Coming home ecstatic to tell my mom about the great day I just had, I walked through the door, and she was sitting in the living room with this blank look on her face. I remember just feeling my stomach drop knowing something was wrong. It was then that she said the three words you never expect to hear, “I have cancer.”
When I was in middle school, I had a flip phone. Yes, the one where you had to hit the keys multiple times to get the letter you need. I remember after I had first found out my mom was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer, there were emotions I couldn’t put a label on. I remember immediately going up to my room and calling my friend. When she picked up, I felt a warm rush and that’s when the tears hit. As I told my friend that my mom was diagnosed with cancer, there was a long, dead silence. At the time, I was so upset, not at my friend, but at the fact that our call only made me feel more alone. It was that moment that I first realized that not everybody is going to understand this journey my family was about to go through. Fast forward nine years. Several days after being crowned Miss Winona, I sat down to truly think about what is it that I could do to best leave a positive impact. What’s my legacy?
I created More Than a Diagnosis to be an outlet for the loved ones of cancer patients. Cancer affects every person and their support system differently. As crucial as it is to support our loved ones through such a complex and rigorous diagnosis, it’s also just as important to check in on those caring for the diagnosed.
As I continue my journey to Miss Minnesota 2023, I am energized to share the abundance of events and advocacy focused efforts for the families and friends of cancer patients in our Winona region. I am pleased to announce my year will be starting with the family friendly ThinkPINK Breast Cancer Color Fun Run happening on October 8 at Unity Park here in Winona. For more information head on over to www.runsignup.com/thinkpinkwinona.
When I remember back to that moment of dead silence on the phone, it motivates me to ensure others within our community never feel that loneliness, to feel as if someone understands. I promise you, I do.