From misfortune comes inspiration 2014 was a rollercoaster year that I won't soon forget. It brought me the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. In the end, it was my motorcycling family that saw me through.
My goals for the season were to obtain an AMA Pro Roadracing Supersport license and compete in several rounds. Mission accomplished! With limited sponsorship and huge support from my STT family and friends, I was able to enter, qualify and race in the big show at the Barber and Mid Ohio rounds. In addition to competing in the AMA, I was also racing the WERA series and coaching with Sportbike Track Time. So far, it had been the season of a lifetime. Then it all went sideways.
I experienced a bad crash while prepping for the AMA round at New Jersey Motorsports Park. The resulting injuries had me seeing several doctors and surgeons. As fortune would have it, one of them noticed something odd in my ear and wanted to biopsy it. The results showed that I had cancer in my left ear. A simple (or so I thought) skin cancer surgery elevated into being told that they couldn't get it all. Next, I was seeing a cancer surgeon specialist at The James Cancer Center @ The Ohio State University.
Within a whirlwind two weeks, I had that first skin cancer surgery, rode a track day, then had a major ear surgery that involved eliminating the cancer and rebuilding my ear canal. Throughout this period of uncertainty, I was amazed by the enriching support and love which flowed from the track community. This outpouring of concern was vastly overwhelming and meant so much more to me than they will ever realize. As riders, we value the camaraderie that we share with our track friends, to the point where we refer to them as "Family." When the chips are down and we face serious life challenges, we discover just how special that family truly is. I will be eternally grateful to those in the racing and riding community whom I call family. I love all of them immensely.
Over the course of my lifetime, I've had many surgeries. Most were orthopedic until this bout with cancer. The major difference seems to be that most surgeries follow some sort of injury and recovery commences quickly thereafter. Cancer surgery is the exact opposite, in that it is only the beginning of an everlasting battle. Aside from the physical aspect of the disease and treatment, there is a huge and ongoing mental issue. Is the cancer completely extricated from your body or will it come back? This is the endless question that swims around in a cancer survivor's mind.
From a young age and continuing throughout my time in the Marine Corps, I have been taught that 1) losing is not an option and 2) that a bad situation can often be turned into a strategic opportunity. As bad situations go, cancer ranks right up there. Currently, I'm thought to be cancer-free and my prognosis is good, so it's time to find a silver lining in all of this. I've decided that in 2015, I'll race for cancer awareness.
With the greatest of support from my track family, I've formulated a strategic plan for the 2015 race season. The goal is to compete in the upcoming MotoAmerica professional roadracing series, with a focus toward raising cancer awareness in the process. Ultimately, everyone would like to see a cure but in the meantime, people are being diagnosed every day. Early diagnosis is a huge factor in how successful the following treatment will be, so I'll be working to increase cancer awareness and promote proactive screening. Above and beyond that, I am riding this year in support of all of those who are in the cancer fight themselves, along with their families and friends. My goal is to bring hope to those who are enduring this battle. Cancer can be mentally devastating and when you're in treatment, it's easy to lose hope. My mission is to show others that life after cancer can be truly amazing.
(Editor's note: Kirk McConnell has decided to share his ongoing adventure with us through a series of article. We can't wait!)