The Colon Club’s 2017 Colon Camp
Last year I was lucky enough to be chosen as a Featured Survivor in the annual Colondar 2.0 magazine that The Colon Club produces each year. As a part of being chosen, you are invited to attend a “Colon Camp” retreat in rural Tennessee. Last year I wrote in the post “ELEVEN NEW SISTERS AND BROTHERS (AND MANY MORE COUSINS)”, that going to Colon Camp last June was an amazing life-changing experience for me. My trip to the 2015 Colon Camp accomplished so many meaningful things in its 4-short days!
Just as a partial list:
- It brought me together with 11 other amazing CRC survivors who were also relatively young age cancer survivors to bond and share laughs and tears. This is something that is hard to do in the infusion center where most fellow CRC patients are decades older than us!
- They pampered us like a rock stars, allowing us to temporarily forget the stresses and worries waiting for us back home in the real world.
- For the first time it made me fully comfortable in my own diagnosis. Of course, I still wish I never had cancer but by “comfortable” I mean I accepted it. After Camp, I now fully accepted my diagnosis as an unchangeable fact from the past. Instead of dwelling on that past, it taught me to focus on how I can react to it and LIVE with vibrancy and life. The Colon Club is filled with currently incurable Stage IV patients like me – as well as patients of all stages from Stage 0 to 4 – but they (and the other members/staff) are the most vibrant, life-loving, fun-loving, crazy positive people doing crazy positive things I have ever met. And that is how they taught me to approach my cancer. To fight my hardest to survive but to do so with vibrancy and joy in my heart. Not because vibrancy and joy will cure me but because… they sure make the cancer journey I’m on a lot more enjoyable and they certainly can’t hurt my chances!
- I had been dabbling in writing and advocacy a bit before last year’s Colon Camp. I walked out of it on fire. I compare it to me being a pool of gasoline just waiting to ignite and last year’s Colon Camp was the spark. I chose to funnel much of my advocacy through writing. Shortly after leaving Colon Camp, this personal blog and Fight CRC advocacy column writing took off eventually including columns in the Philadelphia Inquirer as both a scientist and as a patient and tens of thousands of readers worldwide each week. Within the past year I have worked with all the largest national CRC advocacy organizations in one capacity or another and I am a fixture on the online CRC forums trying to help fellow patients as much as I can. AND IT ALL STARTED WITH THE 2015 COLON CAMP. It was the spark my fire needed to start.
As I said, a life changing event. A kind of crazy CRC version of a make a wish type trip…
I was thrilled to be asked to return to Colon Camp this year – not as a camper this time but now as a Camp staff member/interviewer/writer for the Featured Survivors in the 2017 Colondar 2.0!
I’m writing this as I fly back home from a week in Tennessee at the 2016 Colon Camp. It was simply incredible to see it now from the eyes of an experienced insider – to be a part of the process. My goals were to actively do my part to try to help this year’s Featured Survivors have as much of a life changing and positive event in their lives that I had had the year before.
I’m actually usually quiet in person so I knew I wouldn’t be the loudest or craziest person in the room (aside from the occasional Prince impersonation) but I still felt I could show by example how to live life positively and with happiness & joy – even while fighting Stage IV cancer with every ounce of strength I have. I played one small part of the large team of staff working to make this the best, most positive and most meaningful week possible for the 2017 Featured Survivors.
Based upon all the feedback I heard and witnessed, we accomplished that goal (and more!) and it was very fulfilling to be a part of that process by being a member of the incredible staff. Talk about grass roots advocacy… I saw 12 individual lives changed for the better before my very eyes in the span of just four days filled with craziness and positivity, laughter and tears. And I knew those twelve people would go on to positively influence more & more CRC patients not able to attend the Camp in person.
I was excited to have the honor & trust of interviewing, and then telling the cancer stories of, four of the incredible survivors being featured in the 2017 Colondar 2.0. These stores are keepsake mementos for the survivors and their families and will be read by thousands for inspiration, so I certainly want to do the absolute best job I can in being a new additional voice for the Survivors and their stories. It is an honor and a wonderful feeling to be entrusted with such a task. The four stories that I am writing have some amazing aspects that will tug at your heart-strings while bringing joyful inspiration to your hearts! I have heard the other eight Survivors’ stories and they are very inspirational as well! I can’t wait for the rest of the world to hear their stories when the next Colondar 2.0 is released in 2017!
All together it was a very special and exhausting week. In some ways helping twelve new survivors be changed by Colon Camp was more fun than my own Colon Camp because it is a tremendous feeling to see other people being helped. They are twelve incredible people, unfairly thrust into the world of “colorectal cancer worry” including treatments and surgeries at young ages (one at the age of eight!), who deserved every single positive thing they could get from their Colon Camp week. I am so happy and proud to be given the opportunity to do my small part.
I saw twelve “strangers” show up at Colon Camp on Wednesday, a bit nervous and unsure. On Sunday, I saw a new family of best friend brothers and sisters leave with tears in their eyes – after having one of the most incredible experiences of their lives.
The lives of the twelve 2017 Featured Survivors pictured below have now been changed. They in turn will change others.
That is the power of The Colon Club’s Colon Camp.