This past May (2017) I went to Camp Koru in Maui. It was a surf camp with the company originally called Athletes 4 Cancer.
While we were there, I met the most incredible group of individuals I have EVER met. To be in a group where every single person heard the words “you have cancer” at some point in their life, immediately put me at ease. We all chatted and bonded so quickly. At camp each day, we rose early and headed to the beach to learn how to surf and occasionally paddle board. In the afternoons, our schedules varied from exploring towns on the island, relaxing afternoons at the camp with yoga, painting, and hiking.
I didn’t have too many expectations going into camp. It was a big leap for me to travel across the country (RI to HI) alone so there were a lot of nerves involved. While surfing seems like an obvious expectation, I didn’t expect to be athletic/coordinated enough to be able to surf for hours each morning. I expected a “kumbaya” type thing in the evenings, where we sat by a campfire and shared stories, maybe sang. There wasn’t much singing, but I wasn’t that far off ?
When people asked me about camp when I returned, I sometimes found myself at a loss for words. We did SO much, I completed much more than I ever thought I’d be physically capable of, I made these friendships that, even with just a week together, felt more like family.
Even spending such a short time together, a few of my campers in similar shoes as myself, helped to change my mindset. A mindset that I was afraid would never be able to shift at all. They opened by eyes to enjoying life and focusing on the present, and knowing that if it comes back, you will be strong enough to handle it. You can’t let the fear of the unknown damper today.
My favorite parts of camp were the evening campfires. (Ironically the thing I sort of “mocked” and imagined in my head before camp). I have never been in such a comfortable place where I could open up so freely. In our everyday world, we have to tiptoe around cancer topics, especially fears of relapse, because people only want to hear happy things. They rejoice when you’re in remission and then want to be able to put your cancer in the past. But any of us who have been through it, know it’s not over after treatment.
If you’re thinking of going to a camp, my only advice is to throw all of your excuses away and GO. It will hands down be an experience of a lifetime.