TULELAKE — Quiana Cundall is a 14-year-old girl and she loves to raise pigs. This is her fifth year showing pigs with FFA at the Tulelake-Butte Valley Fair. She won reserve grand champion last year as well as grand champion showman.
This year she brought two of her pigs, named Joy and Jig, who she has been caring for and training all year.
When asked what she loves so much about raising pigs, Quiana responds with a firm, “everything.”
This year has been different than the others, though. Quiana was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer, in January and has undergone radiation and chemotherapy since.
Quiana missed an entire month of school because the treatments were five days a week in Portland, but she still graduated eighth grade.
One of the hardest things for her was what the diagnosis and treatment would mean for her pigs.
“When she got diagnosed, they told her she could not be around animals at all, and she was really upset,” Quiana’s mother, Ellen Cundall said.
She said she asked the doctor what steps could possibly be taken to allow Quiana to keep raising her pigs.
“It’s mostly the particles of dust and mold in hay and straw that are more dangerous than the animals,” Ellen said.
So, Quiana was allowed to continue raising her pigs, but had to take an extra medication and was not allowed to clean out pens or handle hay.
“I miss getting to clean out the pens,” Quiana said wistfully. “I always kept my barn really, really nice.”
Quiana’s brother, who is 12 and also shows pigs, cleans out the pens for her.
“Her brothers have had to definitely step up and help her out this year, which they have. They’ve done great,” Ellen said.
Even though Quiana was allowed to continue raising her pigs, there are still days where the harsh physical toll of the treatment makes it difficult. After all, raising livestock is not an easy feat for anyone.
“Sometimes I didn’t have as much energy to go work with them. So then that also made me mad because I want to be out there doing it — not just doing nothing,” Quiana said.
Good days, bad days
Ellen said Quiana sometimes has bad days.
“She doesn’t want cancer to define her, no one does,” Ellen said.
She said even though sometimes Quiana can be sad, she still shows strength and bravery. Even when she doesn’t want to go to treatments, she soldiers on.
“She’s super tough,” Ellen said.
“It wasn’t really that hard,” Quiana said humbly.
It’s obvious when talking to Quiana that she’s not really interested in talking about cancer and treatment. What she is excited to talk about are her pigs, raising them and what she hopes to do in the future.
“I definitely had harder pigs to train than I’ve ever had,” Quiana said.
Originally, she was training Joy and another pig named Jasper, but Jasper had an issue with his eyes and had to be replaced with another pig, Jig.
The change-up required extra effort to train Jig in a shorter time and according to Quiana, Joy was a difficult pig to begin with.
“When you take her out for a walk she would bolt from you,” Quiana said. “If you came up next to her she was scared. So you would just run laps in the yard and I’d have to chase her around. I’m like, ‘I’m never going to get this pig trained,’” she laughed.
Just like every year, Quiana has grown close to her pigs.
“I always cry when I put them on the truck because you become really good buddies with them,” she said. “But I always know that’s coming.”
She has two more pigs at home that she’s hoping to take to the Arizona nationals over Christmas. She also hopes to breed some of her pigs in the future.
Quiana doesn’t know if she’s going to win grand champion on Saturday.
“I wish my pigs were a little bit bigger, weight-wise, but I don’t know. I guess we just have to see,” she said.
Next week, she will receive her last rounds of chemotherapy, a five-day treatment.
“They will do scans at the beginning of October,” Ellen said. “There’s the possibility she can be cancer-free.”
Quiana wore a T-shirt that said #findjoy. Ellen said it’s a reminder to find joy every day. Quiana says the pig Joy is not named for the same reason.
She says Joy is so-named to reflect how raising animals makes her feel, even though Joy’s name doesn’t quite fit her rambunctious personality.
“They bring me joy — but she’s not that joyful of a pig,” she joked.
The FFA/4-H auction will be held on Sunday at the Tulelake-Butte Valley fair at 2 p.m., in the Jr. Livestock Pavillion.
Showmanship begins Saturday morning, with swine first at 8 a.m.