Be Your Best Self Ladybrag Thrive Vina Users

HOW A WEEK AT “CANCER CAMP” CHANGED MY LIFE FOR THE BETTER

A story of hardship and ultimate friendship.

“So, what’s cancer camp?”

When I told my friend I was going rock climbing in Colorado, he asked the same question everyone asks. And a week ago, I didn’t know the answer either. I discovered First Descents through a support group a few months after I started chemotherapy for stage three breast cancer. Everyone familiar with the program encouraged me to look into it as a fun opportunity to get away when treatment was over.

I quickly discovered that First Descents, a free outdoor adventure program, was so much more. It’s an experience designed to empower young cancer survivors with new skills and improve long-term survivorship, a chance to reclaim our lives and connect with others doing the same.

Image from iOS (4).jpg

From the first day of the week-long program, I felt like I had found the space to ask the questions that had been hanging over my head for months. At camp, everyone gets a new name based on their personality and shared personal trivia; mine was Miracle.

At some point, I described our group as misfits but a group into which I fit perfectly. “For once, we weren’t ‘the friend that had/has cancer or the family member with cancer’ we were just ourselves and there was a lot of freedom in that.” Everyone had a port scar, everyone had a story to share. Everyone understood the unspoken opportunity to swear, crack inappropriate jokes, laugh or cry whenever we felt like it. We supported one another, regardless of when or what that looked like.

On the first day, we headed out to a local climbing park to learn the basics of safety, technique and the knots that would be our foundation for the rest of the week. What we didn’t know was that we would be responsible for belaying each other for every single climb. Nothing develops trust and confidence faster than handing your lifeline to someone you literally just met. It was terrifying, but at the end of the day, we knew we had each other’s backs.

I remember staring up at a seemingly sheer 200 foot rock face day wondering if I could really make it all the way up. I shielded my eyes and considered the route options, asking myself if I really had the guts to trust footholds no bigger than my thumb. 20 minutes later, I strapped on a harness, tied in, and scrambled my way to the top. My confidence grew even deeper over the next few days around the campfire, on yoga mats, in the kitchen or on the rocks as we shared the fear and gratitude that only comes from shared trauma. We offered our pain and experiences to each other and held onto the knowledge that we weren’t alone. As recently as 10 days before we got to Colorado, some of us were still in hospital gowns. We are certainly still healing, but were there out living it.

Image from iOS (6).jpg
Posing in their VINA T-shirts! ✌️

It’s hard to know what to say about my week in Estes Park, CO. Like my buddy Sprinkles said, it was so beautifully impactful. VINA is about women supporting women. Last week, cancer brought 25 of us together, and over the week, we bonded in incredible and unexpected ways. From the first day, we literally held one another’s lives in our hands as we rappelled down a VERY tall rock face. It was intense, to say the least. From sunrise yoga to car karaoke, we spent every waking minute (and then some) together. I may not know everyone’s real names, but I do know these incredible people and First Descents gave me back a piece of myself that I really thought was lost. All I can say is thank you.

If you’re a cancer survivor, join our Cancer Survivor community on Hey! VINA and start swiping to connect with other amazing warriors like you.

I hate long walks on the beach and candle-lit dinners, but love roller coasters and the ocean. My favorite foods include bread pudding and chocolate covered grasshoppers. I am married to the love of my life and soon hope to add 2.5 dogs to the family. For fun, I enjoy reading good stories and exercising my second amendment rights. When I need the energy, I listen to U2, the 77's, and AC/DC along with a wide variety of country favorites. My favorite movies include "Breakfast at Tiffany's", "When Harry Met Sally" and "Halloween". I like being the first to disparage a popular trend before the other hipsters and can often be found at Starbucks (I'm the customer not yelling at the barista about too much foam).

1 comment on “HOW A WEEK AT “CANCER CAMP” CHANGED MY LIFE FOR THE BETTER

  1. Pingback: INTRODUCING 15 NEW, MUST JOIN, COMMUNITIES ON HEY! VINA – VINAZINE

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: