My name is Kate Mitchell and I am a survivor. Like all recipients of the Balding for Dollars Educational Bursary award, my journey is unique. In October of 2010, I was a patient at BC Children’s hospital for a life-saving treatment of my severe Crohn’s disease. I received an autologous stem cell transplant which has put me into remission after a very long, painful journey. I also have two blood disorders which can leave me immune-compromised. I am very grateful to the Balding for Dollars Organization for their support and compassion. I have been a continuing recipient of the Balding for Dollars Educational Bursary award, as well as being an active volunteer and participant in the main event in May. I have been greatly influenced by the kindness and love of staff such as Suzanne Dunbar and Dan Mornar. The organization has made a very positive impact on my life. Five years later, I am still in remission from my Crohn’s disease and have flourished in life. Because of my greatly improved health, I have been able to attend a full course load at Simon Fraser University. I am studying to complete my Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature, and from there I will be entering an education program for my degree in teaching. I have wanted to be an elementary school teacher since I was twelve years old, and I look forward to this dream becoming a reality. In addition to post-secondary education, I work in Burnaby Parks and Recreation as an after-school program leader, and volunteer at my local elementary school. I also volunteer for the Balding for Dollars Organization through BC Children’s hospital, as a way to give back for the amazing support I have received. Last year I fundraised over $1100 for the main event in May and shaved my head, donating two very long ponytails to be made into wigs for kids with cancer. I have spent time working and volunteering at Zajac Ranch for Children as well. Zajac Ranch is a residential summer camp for children with disabilities and chronic illnesses. Camp is a huge part of my life, because it’s somewhere I can be myself and be creative. I enjoy writing and performing spoken word poetry in my free time, as well as reading and writing fantasy fiction.

My Old Friend – A poem by Kate Mitchell

I used to know pain as if she were an old friend. We grew close and have since drifted apart, the way two trees might grow from the same roots, only to bend away from each other with time. I used to cradle her in my gut, where it was warm and safe, and sometimes I sang her to sleep. I liked it when she was asleep, most of the time. She slept soundly and deeply, tucked between the folds of me in the twisted dark. But sometimes she had nightmares, and when she did parts of her escaped into my bones, setting them on fire and then locking them tight so I could not use them. When she was awake, she turned my body into a volcano, bursting and combusting from the inside out. She sent boiling rivers of fever up my spine and into my brain. She sent knives into the sockets of my joints until I thought they were breaking. See, she got too loud, sometimes. She roared in my ears and screamed in my gut and she was tireless. It took her too long to fall asleep and so I buried her alive. I carved her voice out of her chest and gave it to myself. I fed myself pieces of her, eating her dying embers and not caring about my blistered throat. I buried her bit by bit until I felt nothing. Then I painted smiles on her grave and spoke echoes of how we used to be friends. Sometimes I still choke on her, but when I do it doesn’t hurt as much as it did when we were friends.

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