By Cathy Pipcho
I had the chance to attend Epic Experience, a life-changing adventure camp for adult cancer survivors, held in the Colorado Rockies, in July 2021. I had applied two years prior, and after submitting an application, medical records, and clearance from my doctor, I received confirmation that I would be attending in July 2020. However, the pandemic changed those plans. Months later, as Covid numbers fell and effective vaccines were available, I was re-approved and ready to go.
The Epic Experience Camp, open to the adult cancer community, is held in both the summer and winter months. I felt confident about attending until I started to overthink things – flying during a pandemic, the high altitude, potentially risky activities for a 61-year-old with late effects, and the fear of being a disappointment to younger survivors. But all these roadblocks disappeared once I arrived at the beautiful ranch, surrounded by fellow Hodgkin lymphoma survivors, volunteer cancer survivors, camp founders, and staff. I was there for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I said yes to everything offered to me and even participated in the “last man standing” exercise on an overturned raft in the Colorado River.
I was paired with Susan, a younger, 36-year survivor, who became my friend for life. Daily activities with younger survivors taught me a lot about advocating for our care and the potential for late effects. My generation of survivors often carried on our battles alone with limited support or resources, but programs like Epic Experience and Hodgkin’s International are making a huge impact, connecting and empowering survivors to live beyond cancer.
On the last night, a special ceremony was held culminating with time spent alone somewhere on the property. I chose to spend my time alone at the burned-down owner’s home. Surrounded by the charred belongings and towering aspens, I was filled with gratitude for my physical ability to participate and for having a tribe of survivors for support. It was symbolic of a strong foundation amidst the beautiful vista and charred remnants of the past.
Thanks to the efforts of Epic Experience and Hodgkin’s International, and their donors, survivors like me are empowered to live beyond cancer.
Learn more about Epic Experience Beyond Cancer.
Please note: the thoughts and opinions expressed within the content are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the the opinions and beliefs of Hodgkin’s International.