In July of 2012, I heard those 3 loathsome words that have impacted so many lives through the years, “You have cancer”. I was 28 and had gotten married just 3 months earlier. I felt completely unprepared for this fight. More than that, I felt it was completely unfair that I was so young, lived a clean lifestyle, had no family history of cancer, and to receive this diagnosis. But cancer doesn’t discriminate. My life got flipped upside down. Instead of being a young professional and a new husband, I became a patient. Between the chemo, bone marrow transplant, and radiation, the battle with cancer took about a year of my life. When it was done, I found myself demanding more from life than in my previous life.
That’s where Epic came in.
I learned about Epic after attending a Rocky Mountain Blood Cancer Conference downtown, where they had a booth set up. Nancy and Mark’s stories of a free week of river kayaking were music to my ears. I signed up for the inaugural summer camp in 2013.
Through my experience, I learned that cancer is a battle that doesn’t end with a clean bill of health after months (or years) of treatment. Picking up the pieces of your “new life” and putting them together is emotionally exhausting. Epic helped me realize that. I spent a week (free of charge) kayaking the Colorado River, bonding with other survivors over campfires, riding horses, doing yoga, and hiking in the mountains. The setting of the 7W Ranch was surreal. The workers and volunteers were probably the first people I’d encountered since my diagnosis who didn’t treat me like a cancer patient. To them, we were all “Cancer Thrivers”. This was something that probably meant the most to me.
After my week, I felt indebted to Nancy and the whole Epic Experience organization. I felt rejuvenated. In the years since my Epic Experience, I’ve been able to stay close and support the organization. This has included driving out of town campers from the Denver International Airport to our dream home ranch in the Rocky Mountains on several occasions, attending reunions and fundraising galas, and serving as a volunteer for a week of summer camp in order to support another lucky group of Cancer Thrivers have a magical week. In all of these experiences, I’ve left feeling reinvigorated and even more grateful for Epic Experience. Surviving cancer is only the first step. Putting your life back together can be just as hard. Being a member of the Epic Experience family has helped me do that.