Jessica G.

Attending Epic Experience in May 2016 in Colorado was just that, a completely EPIC Experience. One week in the Colorado Mountains surrounded by fellow cancer fighters was an experience of a lifetime. We went white water kayaking down the Colorado River, horseback riding through the mountains, stand up paddle boarding (otherwise known as SUP…news to me!) on a private lake, early morning sunrise hikes at 11,000 feet up, and fly fishing at the 7W Ranch pond!

The week leading up to camp I had a lot of anxiety. I was worried about the food they would have knowing my body doesn’t handle unhealthy foods very well. I was worried about being accepted but mostly just worried knowing this was going to be a very vulnerable trip where I would be sharing my experience, which I had suppressed deep down for 4 years since I finished my last chemo in 2012.

Jessica G and friendsOne special thing about Epic is they don’t want you to worry or stress about anything during your week of camp. They take control of everything and have everything pre-planned weeks before. As an independent young adult, that was a relief and also a little worrisome for the controlling side of me. Most cancer fighters have to be on top and in control of their health, their life, and their surroundings. You can never be unprepared because that might mean a crisis or a trip to the hospital or hours of pain. So let’s just say, I wasn’t used to not having control. But the feeling you get when you just let go and decide to have faith and believe everything will be okay is completely freeing. That feeling of course came after the panic subsided.

If you have never been to summer camp as a kid, this is your second chance. I had always wished I would have went to camp as a kid but was too scared that I wouldn’t be accepted by the other kids. Going to Epic was definitely the true camp experience. We traveled to all of our adventures on a big yellow short bus that was decorated inside with previous camper graffiti. Music of all genres and years blared from the speakers of the short yellow bus and inside campers and volunteers danced and sung their hearts out! The bus alone was quite the experience. On top of that we were required to pick a nickname. It could be anything you wanted but you had to have one picked before you arrived up at camp, which was a 3-hour drive from the Denver airport. I decided on North.

Jessica G & friend in waterfallI found however that my impression of camp did change after I attended. I now see it as an even more magical, life-changing experience than I did when I was there. I now have friends that I can relate to on so many levels. I have friends that I can openly talk to about cancer and the side effects and the struggles and the triumphs. At camp I was quite the emotional camper. I had been holding so many feelings inside that correlated with cancer. Feelings and emotions I didn’t even know were there. Camp is a safe place. There is no judgment coming from others and you honestly feel so at ease and at peace when you’re sharing your story. One of my favorite parts about camp was campfire time. Every night we got the chance to reflect on the day and also share part of our story with everyone. This is where you might say the magic happened (a.k.a. the healing of our souls). Cancer does not come and go quietly from your life. It leaves a huge mark that cannot be erased. Hearing stories from other campers and even sharing my own was so helpful for me and helped me move forward and heal from my scars.

Jessica G KayakingIf you have been affected by cancer or know someone who has, I strongly recommend Epic Experience. I know that it can be scary to attend camp because I was scared too, but it was the best thing I have ever done. All the other campers are feeling the same way you are. No one goes to camp with an upper hand or knowing any more info than another.

Maybe this is your first time hearing about cancer camp and you had no idea this experience even existed! If this is you, now you know and you have no excuse to not go or spread the word with any cancer survivors you know. Before I found Epic Experience through an Instagram post, I never knew these camps existed. I went through chemo all alone. Yes, I had family support and support from my friends but that is not the same as being able to talk to someone who has also walked the same path as you. No matter your age, you should fill out an application. At my camp we had campers of all ages from 20-62 and everyone had an amazing life changing experience! Now it’s time to go make your own Epic Experience.

Jessica Gripentrog

A.K.A. “North”