When Nancy Ferro’s oldest son, Michael, was diagnosed with stage I testicular cancer at age 23 in 2007, she learned
firsthand that cancer can take an emotional as well
as a physical toll. In the aftermath of his treatment,
Michael, now 32, attended an outdoor adventure camp
for young adults with cancer.
HOW YOU CAN VOLUNTEER
True North Treks runs canoeing and
backpacking trips in locations across the
U.S. for young adult cancer survivors.
Athletes 4 Cancer holds adventure
retreats in Oregon and Hawaii for cancer
survivors between the ages of 18 and 40.
Casting for Recovery offers fly-fishing
programs across the U.S. for women who
have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Reel Recovery holds three-day fly-fishing
retreats throughout the U.S. for men who have
been diagnosed with cancer.
“It was a turning-point experience,” Ferro
remembers. “Camp, in a nutshell, instilled in
him that it was OK to live.” Ferro, who has a
background in fundraising, event planning
and volunteer coordination, wanted to give
adult cancer survivors of all ages the same
opportunity that Michael had to embrace
life in the outdoors and be with a community of fellow survivors. She founded Epic
epicexperience.org) in 2012 to
achieve that goal.
The nonprofit, based in Arvada, Colorado,
offers free weeklong adventure camps for
adults of any age who have been diagnosed
with cancer, including those in treatment.
Each day, campers embark on outdoor activities that vary with the season—including
whitewater kayaking and horseback riding
in the summer or snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter. At the end of
each day, participants dine together and bond
over campfire marshmallows.
Adventure therapy programs like Epic
Experience use outdoor activities to help
cancer survivors and patients cope with
the psychological and social effects of
cancer. Studies suggest that challenging
people with activities in nature can
improve their psychological states and
perceptions of themselves.
Ferro remembers seeing many adventure opportunities for young adults, but
few were open to adults of all ages. Over
its nearly five years in existence, Epic
Experience has hosted more than 250
campers ranging in age from 18 to 79. The
experience of cancer breaks down age
barriers and draws everybody together,
Creating a sense of community is at
the heart of Ferro’s mission. “We lost a
lot of relationships when Michael was
diagnosed. People don’t know what
to say, what to do with cancer,” Ferro
remembers. At Epic Experience, she
says, campers build support systems that
endure long after the last marshmallow
has been roasted. —LINDSEY KONKEL
FIND YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
Looking to engage in an adventure-filled activity? Try fly-fishing, hiking,
standup paddle boarding, outdoor yoga or even going on a walk, suggests
Nancy Ferro, founder of Epic Experience. Or, if outside activities aren’t your
thing, your local cancer center may sponsor special programs, such as dance
classes geared toward cancer survivors.
Do you know an extraordinary
person who’s giving his or her
time to the cancer cause?
Email Volunteer@Cancer TodayMag.org.
We may feature the person in a future issue.
PHOTO COUR TES Y OF S TEPHANIE TROWBRIDGE PHOTOGRAPHY