Cancer Club

Jay Campers, Volunteers

Hello! I’m Lahana, or as the rest of the world knows me, Kelly Capre. However, I prefer my camp name “Lahana.” I came to camp in June of 2016. A couple months prior, a friend told me she had just signed up for a camp later that summer. Later that day, I watched the video on Epic’s home page. I was glued to my phone as I watched cancer thrivers kayak, horseback ride, and swim, and most importantly appear genuinely happy. Being a year and a half out of treatment, I was desperately missing happiness in my life. Of course, I was thrilled to be done with the treatments and to have the diagnosis of remission. However, I also had so many other emotions: negativity, shame, and doubt about what my future held. I immediately signed up for camp. Little did I know how much Epic Experience could change my life.

As we drove up to the 7W ranch, I could feel my body instantly exhale all the tension I’d been holding. The weekend opened up and at first it was a little awkward. We all came from different backgrounds, different ethnicities, beliefs, religions, and views on life. Some were mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters. And all different cancers. But at the end of the day, we had one strong connection: we’d all been initiated into the “cancer club.” None of us signed up to get cancer, nor did we sign up for the god-awful side effects, or the stress it would cause us and our loved ones. But here was a sanctuary where those struggles seemed to crumble away. The awkwardness lasted a short while and the giggles seemed to take over. From the games to dressing up on the river to sabotaging each other’s kayaks to late-night conversations over a campfire—we were able to let our guards down and tirelessly be ourselves.

The last night a couple of us stayed up after campfire to sit on the porch and chat. We looked at the stars and admired all the natural beauty around us. At first, we giggled about the week and listened to music. You would have thought we had been friends for decades, even though we only met days prior. I’ll never forget that night on the porch just admiring the sky full of stars, chatting until almost sunrise.

Epic helped me figure out there’s so much life beyond cancer. There are so many others who understand and can connect with your experiences and stories. Even when your struggle seems so personal, there is a whole network of people—from Mama Lou to your fellow campers to the entire alumni network to reach out to.

A year later, I chose to come back and volunteer. I also joined the Alumni board as the Hospital Outreach chair. I want to give back by helping provide the same positive, loving experience that Epic gave me. I hope to help others wherever they may be in their cancer journey. Epic helped me re-create myself after cancer and find the new me. I take Lahana with me everywhere I go. She’s my better half and a reminder of the epic.