I came across the blog of one of our mentor angels/volunteers, Jemma, who shared her story about how she became involved with Imerman Angels. Jemma is a two time cancer survivor. She now lives an active life, participating in athletic events for the charities that she supports. Read about this, her experience with our partner charity First Descents, and her cancer survivor story at IAMJEM.
Part of being at FD camp is a nightly campfire where we wrap down the day. Last night Mateao (cancer survivor) posed the question: what has cancer given to you? what has it taken? People took turns as they shared the lessons that they learned, positive and challenging, from their cancer experiences- a series of short stories that blended and intertwined, amounting in a healthy dose of practical life knowledge.
It is easy to get caught up in the future- trading in being present in a moment to “what ifs” coming down the pipe. Along the same lines, that pace of life allows you to fly past other people and take things for granted. Listening to the stories of my new friends, I heard the reoccurring theme of gratitude, acceptance and mindfulness. This translates to taking life one day at a time. Accepting (instead of judging) the people around you, which allows for opportunities to be open, compassionate and thoughtful as a person. And, most importantly, living in the exact moment that you are in, instead of allowing your mind to dwell on the past or over plan your future.
Without experiencing it, cancer has given me a lot: opportunities like FD and Imerman Angels, and the stories of my new friends that I hope I’ll be able to share with others in the cancer community.
Another great night at FD-
Today was all about practicing escape tactics: wet escapes and rolls in the kayak. After breakfast from our camp “moms” and the gear hookup, it was time to hit the water and prepare for tomorrow on the river. A few people were a little nervous at first to take off in the kayaks and, especially, to turn upside down. I heard more than one “we are cancer survivors, we can get through anything!” That’s what FD is all about! A water polo game and 500 pictures later it was a wrap.
Here are a few of my favorite pictures from today:
I am excited to share my week with First Descents, a non-profit that offers the opportunity for cancer fighters and survivors to spend a week at camp: kayaking, horseback riding, yoga, campfires, general fun, etc. Founded by Brad Ludden, Nike pro kayaker, FD is in its 10th year! I have been invited to come and capture the week with photos for the campers and share the experience with our IA community.
This week’s camp session is located at 7W Ranch in Colorado, which is a 360 degree landscape set back away from everything: gorgeous! I met 15 new friends at the Denver airport, led by Smelly, a kayaker free spirit who is running the show for us. When she is not working with FD, she leads adventure tours in Costa Rica- how cool is that?
After designating our nicknames for the week, no legal names allowed, we piled into a short bus and headed to camp. We had a few stops along the way to acclimate to the dramatic change in altitude, which allowed us to find a huge tree house and a few scenic stops (pics below).
In our group of 15 campers, we have people from all over the country, as well as Canada, of both genders and all ages. One thing everyone has in common is cancer. Two women, LOLS and ZILLA (both 25 like me), found that they had the same rare sub-type of Hodgkins and were able to discuss their treatment plans. In IA terms: a perfect 1-on-1 match. Both are under 3 years out of treatment and are living their lives. LOLS is planning to study to be a P.A. and works as an EMT, and ZILLA, recently engaged, is working with cancer charity organizations. Both were diagnosed at stage 3 or above and beat it. Amazing.
Another story came from a woman in her 20s named CANADA: a three time survivor. She was diagnosed with childhood cancer and has continued to fight. She is a few months out of treatment and is here: healthy. I am excited to learn more about her story and the insight that she has learned through her experiences- I can already tell that she is a fighter.
Warrived at camp, met the staff, and I was surprised by a good friend: Jonny Imerman! We had a family style dinner and a campfire where we introduced ourselves. Funny awards were given out, some Chuck Norris jokes were thrown around. Jonny shared his story as a testicular cancer survivor and answered a few questions about 1-on-1 cancer support.
ESPN is here this week, covering FD as well- it is a great place to be. The backdrop here is paradise. I am excited for tomorrow when we hit the water!