If you know Southern Boone resident Vicki Kemna, you should consider yourself lucky.
If you have ever sat and listened to songs written and performed by Tom Petty – I mean, not heard them in passing while in the car on the highway, but really listened – you would be equally as lucky.
Vicki is not only a super volunteer – she served as president of the Southern Boone Chamber of Commerce – she’s a wife, mom and Boone Electric employee.
She is also a cancer survivor.
Well, not really – Vicki Kemna didn’t just survive cancer, she knocked it down, kicked the tar out of it and deposited cancer in the trash. Vicki Kemna beat the living daylights out of cancer and it wasn’t always a pretty site – but she whipped cancer with a super-positive attitude and a smile on her face.
Kemna didn’t play the role of “breast cancer victim” very well.
Oh, she looked the part – wearing bandannas over her head when she was losing her hair and, eventually, looking like she was going to a cue-ball convention. Vicki lost her hair, and looked very sick, but she never lost her dignity and she never lost her smile.
I’m sure that in the middle of months of chemo treatment, Vicki may have felt as though she was dying. In the privacy of her own bathroom I imagine she felt undignified. But I never saw that side of her.
“Cancer and chemotherapy is what you make of it,” my friend Bob Tanner once told me, “I always looked at the process of chemo to simply being the process of beating cancer – whatever it takes.”
Vicki’s positive attitude, her willingness to answer question after question and her ability to maintain her life as an employee, a mom and a volunteer remind me so much of my friend Bob. Both are unique people who saw cancer for what it was, refused to be afraid of it and provided the rest of us a living portrait of courage.
I thank God that Vicki Kemna beat cancer and, in this month of October, hope everyone realizes that their donation to one of the many cancer organizations – including the American Cancer Society, the Susan G. Komen Foundation or St. Judes Hospital to fight pediatric cancer – will help others beat cancer and eventually find a cure for cancer.
Sooooo….my friend Vicki and Tom Petty in the same column?
Sure – just listen to his music.
Tom Petty grew up in Gainesville, Fla., a little wild and misunderstood by his parents. Born in 1950, all he ever wanted to be was a rock-n-roll star like his early hero, Elvis Petty.
He grew his hair long, learned to play the guitar and set about to sing the song of defiant teens everywhere. His music was that most often heard in the dormitory at the University of Arkansas in 1978-79-80. Sure, there was a little Pink Floyd and we would make up words to Bob Dylan’s music, but Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were constantly playing in one room or another at full volume.
Petty’s album “Damn the Torpedoes” included the songs “Runnin’ Down a Dream” and “Don’t do me like that” and you just knew where this singer was coming from.
If you ever had a co-worker, boss – or anyone – every tell you that you would amount to nothing, Tom Petty would be your go-to guy for tunes. In the 1980s he kept cranking out the hits, including the anthem of defiance for many of us, “I won’t back down.”
Tom Petty was told as a teenager what he could and could not do – but he decided to make up his own mind about that. He died last week and a part of my teen years went with him.
Here’s to the defiant ones – to Vicki Kemna, who would not back down to cancer. To Tom Petty, who reminded us a little defiance can make one work hard to achieve those goals and dreams.