My name is Ian. In November 2013 I was diagnosed with T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Cancer would not only stop life in it tracks, but make it seem impossible to start again. During treatment and after, moving forward seemed out of reach and at times intimidating. Some very good and understanding people asked me to join them on a cancer survivor trek. I was told this would be a great way learn how to take life back and to help me realize that I’m not alone. After three years of putting this offer on the back burner and worrying that I couldn’t do it, I decided to go for it!
I chose a backcountry camping trek in Yellowstone National Park, in September of 2017. I would be going with four fellow survivors and three guides. I wasn’t fully sure what to expect and no one could have ever told me how my experience would go. I learned so much about nature, and most importantly, about myself. I got to experience the world at its best, from camping at the base of a mountain to a riverside that is more beautiful than any picture or video; every morning seeing the sunrise over the mountain tops and at night more stars than I thought the sky could hold; learning to cast a fly rod or watching a buffalo wake up to start its day; watching an eagle soaring through a valley. Every step taken on the trail was impossible not to stop and live in the moment. The group would often refer to us going from a 60 mph life to a 2.5 mph life and it is amazing to do that. My favorite times would be sitting on a rock ledge or riverside and getting completely lost, living only in that moment.
Most importantly I got to see myself at my best. I realized how important and strong I am, and that I deserve to be here! Each day I learned new ways of connecting with myself and being positive. This was a chance to be among those who have “been there” and understand a bit of where I came from and what I’m going through. I went into this trek worrying how others see me and how they’ll hear my story and I finished proud to show them who I am.
To anyone (like me) who isn’t sure for whatever reason about making your own adventure, there are some amazing people in this world at Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation and True North Treks who will show you how. Don’t let anything stop you! Cancer doesn’t define you; let your happiness do that.
You can do it.
You deserve it.