Hello! My name is Cheese Curd, or Kathy. My story all began with a lump in my breast I felt in the winter of 2015. Earlier that year I had done three half marathons and took second in a national fitness challenge. I was a vegetarian for almost 40 years, ate fairly clean, received regular acupuncture, and did yoga, Pilates, and Zumba. My grandmother and aunt died of breast cancer, but I was too active, so I couldn’t have cancer, right? WRONG!
Part of me wanted to pursue alternative medical treatment because chemotherapy terrified me. I am a widow and a mother, though, and wanted to be around for my daughter and my aging parents. Thus, I decided to go with Western treatment, along with some Eastern, holistic therapies to fight this cancer everything I had.
Since then my life has been an endless mix of doctors’ appointments, medical procedures, exhaustion, and feeling out of control and limited. I’ve had five surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation, and am on medication for the next 10 years. My coworkers knew I had cancer and was going through treatment, but it wasn’t something I really wanted to talk about. Work was my chance to have a piece of “normal.” Meanwhile I’d become inactive, deconditioned, and depressed.
One of my coworkers and I sometimes talked about our treatment for breast cancer, and I noticed another woman who sat close to me didn’t seem to be uncomfortable when we did so. Strange, but comforting. . . Maybe I wasn’t a freak? Then, the woman who sat close to me shared an article with our team featuring her husband in a video about Epic Experience. He was a cancer survivor, which explained a lot!
I asked her a lot of questions, went to the Epic Experience website, and applied. What did I have to lose? I was still alive and kicking after all my procedures and treatments. A weeklong, active getaway with other cancer survivors in the beautiful mountains of Colorado sounded great! I had no idea if I would be accepted or not, but I was hopeful.
Then I got the email—could I attend a camp in January? I felt like I won the lottery! A brief shopping trip on Amazon got me the additional gear I needed, and I started digging through closets and drawers for the other required items I knew I had. Heck, I’m from Wisconsin so a winter camp would probably still be warmer than a Midwest winter, right?
Epic was truly an experience! I can be a bit cautious with trusting people, so having to let that go and trust everyone with Epic was a challenge. Also, I’m a bit of an introvert, so everything was WAY outside my comfort zone. You know something, though, I lived and I learned. I also felt more comfortable in my body and realized I wasn’t a freak.
I learned it’s okay to let go and trust people. At camp, I was treated like a queen by being driven around, having meals cooked and dishes washed, and being allowed to participate in some great activities. I always wanted to learn to ski, and Epic Experience got me on skis for the first time in my 40 years of living in Colorado! It was nice to be active again and see what my body could still do. The best part was that everyone was so friendly and supportive, and it was so comfortable being around everyone.
Yes, I have been to some cancer support groups. They still weren’t anything like the bonding I felt with the other cancer survivors/thrivers at camp. You get to know people a lot better being around them 24/7 versus getting together once a month for a few hours. I felt much more accepted and accepting—we all had different backgrounds, yet we all had coped with cancer.
Some people say cancer is a gift; I say jewelry is a gift. That said, meeting the people I’ve met through my cancer journey, and being able to participate in an Epic Experience camp, has been a gift. Epic did take me beyond my cancer diagnosis and let me live in the joy of the moment, a lot. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to participate in the wonderful adventure of a “cancer camp”; the memories of the people, laughs, adventures, and stories will always be cherished.