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SMALL TOWNS: Iron Mountain’s courageous cancer fighter

A young mom, diagnosed with cancer the first time at 26, shares her journey with millions of people on social media
Updated: Mar. 3, 2022 at 6:10 PM CST
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IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. (WBAY) - In recent years, you’ve likely heard the term “social media influencer.” It’s someone who’s established credibility in a specific area, developed a huge audience and persuades others to act based on their recommendations.

This week in Small Towns, we travel to Iron Mountain, Michigan, where a woman’s very public battle with cancer is saving lives.

“A really good feeling knowing that there’s something really good coming out of having cancer, and that makes me happy,” says Kenzi Paquin.

Over the last two years, Kenzi has become a social media sensation on TikTok.

“It blew up and there’s 14 million views and it keeps going, but this is my story,” says Kenzi.

Kenzi’s story is about a battle with cancer, over and over and over.

“Everyone says that, I never thought it would be me, but I really never thought it would be me,” says Kenzi.

After being diagnosed and treated for cervical cancer in 2016, at the age of 26, Kenzi ignored her doctor’s advice to get frequent follow-up exams.

“I was young and fit and a mom and very energetic and I’m like, I was already at the doctor enough with my OB-GYN with my last five kids, like I do not want to go on my free time,” recalls Kenzi.

Kenzi felt fine until she received some devastating news in October 2020.

The cancer was back, and a lot more serious this time.

“I found out recently that I have cervical cancer, special test to see what stage it is, they told me I have stage 3, I don’t know what I’m going to tell my kids,” says Kenzi in one of her TikTok videos.

Kenzi decided to document her journey, on social media for one simple reason.

“When I’m taking about my cancer and my journey it’s very raw, I’m very authentic because I kick myself in the butt because I know if I would’ve just got my annual pap smear I wouldn’t be in this situation, so honestly I felt for the other moms, sisters, daughters, women, and I just wanted to help them not be in my situation,” explains Kenzi.

Over the next several months, Kenzi kept her cell phone camera rolling.

“The next week I was doing chemo, the next week after that my husband was brushing my hair after I showered because it just came out in globs, then it’s like the next week after that I shaved my head,” says Kenzi.

A hysterectomy and other surgeries then followed.

“This is the most pain I have ever been in in my life,” explains Kenzi in another video, before telling us, “I think I got five in like six weeks, that’s a lot of surgeries.”

Kenzi pulled through, and again, doctors would eventually deem her cancer free.

But after her husband retired from the Navy and the family moved to Iron Mountain last summer, cancer again, this time in Kenzi’s abdomen and on her lung.

“I never thought it would happen again, I threw away my wigs, I was growing my hair, starting life, we’re moving here from California, the last thing I though that was I was going to get that news,” says Kenzi.

After another surgery to remove the tumor in her stomach, Kenzi is now back on chemo to treat her lung.

Through it all, she’s relied on strength from above to find peace.

“My faith is who I am, you know so I don’t know how to be without my faith. That’s because God had a plan for me and that’s fine, that’s ok with me. Hundreds of women have reached out to me and said since hearing my story they went and got a pap and found out they had cancerous cells, but they got in and out of the doctor’s office because of that, without me they could’ve been in my situation, they wouldn’t have known, that’s been amazing,” explains Kenzi.

And so has the overwhelming support Kenzi’s received.

“Well it helps me because it’s not just all on my shoulders, I mean there’s only so many times I can tell her like, it’s going to be ok, or hey you’re doing great today or whatever, I mean yeah, she hears it from me, but when hundreds of thousands of other people are helping me out to bring her up, that helps a lot,” says Eric Paquin, Kenzi’s husband.

Tremendous love from around the world for a young woman uncertain of a future even five years from now.

“Honestly I don’t envision being here, I know that sounds terrible, but I don’t, but not in a depressing way, I just look back on how the world, kind of how I impacted the world I guess, so if anything, my friends, my two daughters, sorry I’m going to cry, will be saved or helped because of me,” says Kenzi fighting back tears.

After spending some time with Kenzi, what truly stands out is her vulnerability and courage.

And as long as she can, she will continue sharing her story to help others.

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