Hi, I’m Jackie. Well, my new friends call me Four, and that is because I am a young adult four-time cancer survivor. Last month (April 2017), I was invited to attend Camp Koru (Snow Camp) with Athletes for Cancer. I feel so lucky because all of my expenses were covered so that I could participate in snowboarding at Mount Hood in Oregon! What an adventure this was! Being from Georgia, I don’t frequently get to enjoy snow, so you can imagine how exciting this was for me. I felt like I was in a winter wonderland. Ten more young adult survivors were also invited and stayed at a beautiful lodge overlooking Hood River and with a breathtaking view of Mount Hood (6,000 feet high) for one week.
A4C’s Camp Koru is an adventure camp for cancer survivors aimed at strengthening community while exposing us to challenging activities. While I was at Camp Koru, I learned how to snowboard from some of the best instructors in the business (☺) at one of the nicest ski resorts I have ever seen. Also, our group leaders Nalu and Bear (also A4C Founders) made sure we were well fed by phenomenal chefs, had so many treats and goodies to keep as souvenirs, and more importantly, lifetime memories to remember and share. Our nightly campfire sessions offered a safe space to chat, learn, and connect—a luxury rarely afforded to young adult cancer survivors because of our primary focus on healthcare and treatment.
I hoped that in attending Athletes for Cancer that I would gain experience with snowboarding for the first time, which I did and so much more. Each of us were exposed to the thrill of boarding or skiing, most of us for the first time. We also learned about one another and discovered that there are many things that we do have in common with other young adult survivors. It is just somewhat difficult because we are so spread out and in our own networks, a bit isolated due to our state of health and level of care. Even when we are surrounded by people who care for and about us, dealing with cancer can be a very lonely experience. Though I attended thinking that I would meet some cool people and have some fun times doing something new in a strange place, I left believing that I had made friends for life that could understand and even relate to my experiences as a young adult. It was such a liberating feeling. And I will say that my favorite part of camp was experiencing budding friendships while making unexpected connections with people I might otherwise have never met.
If I were to try to finance such an adventure on my own, I don’t think I would have been able to go snowboarding or attend anything like Camp Koru. Because of the efforts of Athletes 4 Cancer, the experience became available to me. I simply completed the application and hoped for the best. When I received notification that I had been accepted, I was thrilled. But the excitement did not end there. I learned about the Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation (CHSCF), an organization that believes in helping survivors like me to get to programs like Camp Koru. With my permission, CHSCF used the application information provided by A4C to verify my need for additional support to make it to Oregon! That’s right, they provided transportation for me from Georgia, in response to my simple request. So if I had doubts or worries, they were assuaged by CHSCF. THEN, to really brighten my day, I received the BEST care package EVER from the foundation; what an awesome blessing it has been to benefit from such opportunities. I continue to share the work that organizations do to tangibly benefit young adult cancer survivors, because we go through so much to keep pressing forward. Camp Koru helped me to recognize my abilities to accomplish more than I dreamed. Everyone has their journey, and I am so glad that I have had great partners along the way. Thank you CHSCF!!