Since my diagnosis with cancer, I never knew I needed a support group until I met my tribe. When I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer almost three years ago, I knew nothing about thyroid cancer, its treatment protocols or how to decipher the different recommendations that came from physicians. As my now-husband and I tried to navigate these challenges, we found ourselves surrounded by people offering lots of love and support, but somewhat alone when it came to guidance and first-hand knowledge of what we were facing.
As I’ve gone further into my journey and learned the importance of support communities, I’ve discovered there are two types of cancer fighters and survivors: people who approach the fight alone as my husband and I did, and people who surround themselves with other cancer survivors and become part of a community of people who are going through the same or similar challenges. In one weekend, I found myself transformed from the former into the latter. I give full credit of this change to Sent It Foundation, a nonprofit who offers outdoor adventures to young adults battling cancer.
Send It Foundation was created by Jamie Schou, an inspiring adventurer who lost his life to a rare, aggressive cancer after a two-year battle. In between his extensive rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, he would spend as much time in the outdoors as possible doing what he loved most – skiing, biking, climbing, paddling and jumping out of airplanes. It was this outdoor adventure spirit that kept him going and now inspires others to live a full, fun life in spite of the daunting health challenges that come with battling cancer. Jamie started Send It Foundation before he died, which embodies his legacy by helping other young adults experience outdoor adventures through an incredible cancer-survivor community.
I was blessed with the opportunity to participate in one of these cancer-survivor trips through an unforgettable backpacking trip to Yosemite National Park. We set out on this adventure with a guide, Send It leader, medical director (an emergency medicine physician and fellow cancer survivor) and five cancer-surviving participates (myself included). Although physical abilities were screened so no one was pushed beyond their limits, there was a wide range of outdoor recreation experience. This varied from people who hike multiple times per week, to someone who had never camped before.
The scenery was incredible as we passed through tranquil meadows, pine forest groves and climbed higher toward granite peaks. The views were breath-taking, but most inspiring were my fellow campers, most of whom live at sea level and some currently going through cancer treatments, who hiked to over 10,000 feet with heavy packs. This hike was challenging enough for me, and I am blessed with frequent access to trails.
During our two-night trip in the backcountry, I spent time getting to know the participants on the trip. They were all inspiring people battling leukemia, lymphoma, appendix cancer and breast cancer. We shared stories and experiences, and cheered each other on as we climbed higher into the mountains. As luck would have it, our trip was timed perfectly with the Perseid Meteor Shower, so even the nights were awesome. I found myself getting a little teary-eyed as we all laid down together on the granite rocks at the end of the day and watched the meteors in awe. As I observed the magic of the universe above me, I felt an appreciation for the beautiful souls that had come into my life. I had been looking forward to this trip to spend time in nature and meet new people, but little did I know, I would climb mountains with strangers and come back with new friends.
My biggest takeaway from this experience is that you don’t have to battle cancer alone. There are so many resources and groups out there that are going through the same thing you’re going through. Cancer aside, whatever health challenges you’re facing, trust me – there is a community for it. Communities that are full of advice, support and love. Send It Foundation has created a wonderful community and is something that I aspire to create right here on My Natural Healer.
If you or someone you know can answer yes to these questions, I highly recommend applying for a Send It Foundation trip:
- Cancer fighter or survivor
- Are between the ages of 20 – 40
- Enjoy adventures in the outdoors or have a willing attitude to give it a try
- Desire to connect with others who have had or currently have cancer
In addition to backpacking, Send It Foundation offers other outdoor activities such as skiing, surfing, biking, kayaking, paddle boarding, etc. For more information on this incredible cause, check out their profile on our website. You can apply to join one of their trips or donate to their cause to make it possible for cancer fighters to find support and experience these outdoor adventures.
If you are looking for support while going through cancer, a disease or disability, please comment below so we can help make connections if possible. Also, I would love to hear about your support groups, so I can share with others.