Ending a Very Pink Month With a Trip To Camp

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Whew this has been a pretty crazy month this far. Although I didn’t really think it was possible, my world got a little more pink over the past few weeks. I can tell you right out of the gate, I was pushed completely out of my comfort zone at every pass in being asked to speak at several local breast cancer events in West Michigan. Each request came with a certain level of anxiety. You know; the sweaty hands, knot in your stomach kind of anxiety, but I took a deep breath and said sure, with a nervous but big smile on my face like I promised I would. I cannot help but think back to my very first Chemo which happens to be the day I connected with my now very dear friend Liz. She had been following my blog and had just started volunteering with the American Cancer Society, so she stopped into my very first chemo to introduce herself…. And we just connected instantly as we share quite similar passions and goals in raising awareness for a cause that is near and dear to our hearts. Liz was about 2 years out from her breast cancer diagnosis on the day I met her, yet there she was volunteering to help women just like her facing the hardest battles of their lives, and she was still recovering from and dealing with the after affects of her own battle. We shared story’s, our inspirations, and our aspirations in those few short hours. Where I was comfortably stepping out of my comfort zones from behind a computer screen, Liz was stepping out of hers in the public eye, as she was jumping onto a leadership committee with ACS, and she had already begun sharing her story publicly at ACS events and at her Daughters Sorority at Hope College. I remember telling Liz that I had made a promise that I would say “yes” when I wanted to run, if it meant that I was stepping out of my comfort zone in a way that helped women in my shoes, but I was very quick to state that public speaking would be where I drew the line. I have always hated being the center of attention and the idea of standing up in front of a large Crowd to speak has always terrified me! I can still picture her face as she the looked at me, smiled, and said you will be surprised at what you will do after something like this. Looking back I think she knew, or at least she saw the very same spark of crazy in my eyes as she did her own, because she was absolutely correct! I did make the promise that I would accept each challenge and step out of my comfort zone for the greater good from the day I was diagnosed. What might be somewhat surprising is that it’s harder for me to openly and publicity share my story, than it is to bare my scars and deepest inner thoughts, fears, and emotions, in photos and blog posts. I got my toes wet by sharing my story at Farm to Table Harvest Event for Revive and Thrive and of course sharing my story with the Bee Brave community following the Bee Brave 5K, however I stepped it up a notch by doing 3 news interviews for both breast cancer events and my own campaign, being featured in the Spectrum Health Ad campaign that launched this month in the forms of Outdoor boards, online, print, digital ads, and the biggest step…. Being honored as the keynote speaker at this year’s Wine and Wig Gala put on By ACS, Komen, Gilda’s, and Van Andel Institute and speaking as part of an expert panel at Spectrum Health’s Candid Conversations event with my medical team in front of 1200 people.

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screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-11-25-15-pmThe Wine and Wig event, by far had me the most panicked as I wrote at least 6 different takes on my story and in the end felt very ill prepared. But it that moment things clicked into place a calmness came over me before I even got up the the podium. I think I realized what an honor it was to have been given such an amazing platform to share not only my story but my mission with some pretty big players in the breast cancer community, and the response was quite beautiful. There were a lot of tears which was really not my goal, but it means a lot that my story was able to touch people on a level that brought even the strong men in the room to tears and compelled them to approach me afterwards. It was quite an amazing night that almost culminated all that I have been through and all that I am hoping to achieve. And you know what? I surprised myself. I really struggled with the first few events that I spoke at this month, and I did panic a bit inside with each and every speech, however I have also learned so much about myself and grown in ways that are hard to explain which is something I did not anticipate. Above all, I again feel like I am right where I need to be, and I am doing exactly what I was meant to do. A few weeks ago my nerves were getting the best of me as I told my husband that public speaking just is NOT for me, but oddly I don’t regret any of it and I think I would do it all again. Plus I believe it was the very best lead in to what I have in store next… A camp for young cancer survivors.

This camp is a once and a lifetime adventure camp for young cancer survivors in Maui, that my dear friend Jessica lined up for me. (Love you dear) The camp is fully funded by The Athletes for Cancer Foundation and The Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation out of Washington, Michigan sponsored all of my travel expenses. We found out about the camp a few months ago, but I didn’t actually get off the waiting list until early Oct. With all the craziness this month, it has not even hit me that I am actually leaving for Hawaii in less 10 hours. However as I… very last minute plan the week for my family, and start the packing process, I am getting pretty excited to get away from my reality and feel the sun on my skin again. The camp is called Camp Koru, and it’s geared to empower young cancer survivors to take their lives back after cancer by jumping out of their comfort zones and conquering challenges like surfing, and stand up paddling in Hawaii, which sounds quite amazing to me!

I really cannot express how excited I am I am for this camp. I know it will push me out of my comfort zone a little more, but in a good way as I have not yet conquered my fear of group sharing. However I know that it will be life-changing to meet others my age who understand all of the challenges, fears, and emotions, that come from from being diagnosed with cancer as a young adult. I will be off the grid for most of the week, but expect a full report when I return.

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