I first heard about Epic Experience from a good friend, Bobcat, who had attended a winter camp in 2016. She had so many positive things to say about her adventure and recommended that I apply, so I did.
As the week of winter camp approached, I was anxious (who leaves behind their family to go and hang out with a bunch of strangers for a week?!), I was excited (to experience new athletic adventures and to make memories), and I was nervous (about sharing my journey with cancer with other survivors and thrivers—something that I didn’t do very often).
The wonderful memories started the moment I arrived at the Denver airport. I was greeted by Mark Ferro and Ginny Cutright, who offered big hugs and reassurance that it was going to be a good week. As the campers started arriving at the airport, we began mingling and asking each other questions, unsure of what adventures lie ahead.
Everyone talks about how breathtaking the 7W Ranch is—and it truly is. The views are incredible, the cabins are quaint, and the memories made there are unforgettable. While I expected have a lot of fun, I did not expect to meet a group of people I would ultimately consider family by the end of the week. Epic Experience provides a safe place for those who have been through or who are going through a cancer diagnosis. Everyone there understood what it was like to go through being diagnosed, the various treatments, and the aftermath—living a “new normal.” The volunteers—in addition to Mama Lou and Wingman—were an integral part of my experience. They too had been impacted by cancer and were more than willing to share their stories as well as lend an ear to our stories and struggles.
For one week, we as cancer survivors and thrivers were allowed to talk openly about our cancer experiences—without the fear that we sometimes experience in our normal lives of having cancer dominate conversations. We were treated as if we were special guests—never needing to cook, clean up, plan, or take care of small children. ☺ We were doted on and cared for. It was amazing.
My cancer journey is ongoing. It is something that I have held pretty close, not wanting to let too many people in for fear they would make an unwanted comment for lack of understanding or that they would want to continually ask, “How are you feeling?” (enter sympathetic face and side tilt of head here). I was proud of how I handled the physical portion of cancer treatment—working full time, caring for our three-year-old son, running half marathons, and staying active throughout the experience. However, I realized that by not allowing people in, I missed out on the emotional connections needed to thrive through the journey. Enter the wonderful people of Epic Experience. Throughout the week we shared our triumphs, our hardships, our struggles, and our fears. We cried and we laughed—with a lot more laughs than tears. My cancer experience has been humbling. I realize that everyone who goes through the journey has a different experience—and that is the beauty of coming together and being involved in a community like Epic Experience. The outdoors have always been my “happy place.” Being in Colorado, in the mountains, was heavenly. I was energized with all of the activities that we were exposed to. They helped me to remember the things that I truly love doing—being active and being outdoors. The experiences gave me the reassurance that cancer hasn’t taken things away from me; rather, it has helped develop me into who I am today. And it will continue to develop me—hopefully into an even more empathetic, kind, and gracious person.
My week-long adventure in Colorado didn’t end when we packed our bags and left the 7W Ranch. I was the last camper to leave the airport, so I was able to spend a bit more time with some of the campers and volunteers. While I was excited to be going home to my family, I was sad to be leaving my new friends. The beautiful people who have been through cancer recently, a long time ago, or are still going through treatment—they are on my mind every single day. I love receiving emails, text messages, and letters from them. I am forever grateful for the Epic Experience I had. I loved the physical challenges as well as the emotional challenges. To all of the staff members, volunteers, board members, and friends of Epic Experience—thank you. Thank you for your generosity, your kindness, and your love.