As someone who attended Camp Kinder Ring when I was younger, I knew what it was like to have camp end, and miss everyone so much that it hurt. You never knew when or if you would ever see them again, and the thought of losing someone forever was the knot you thought would never untie.
Two years ago, I attended my first Colondar shoot, the big fundraising/team building event for the Colon Club. A dozen younger colorectal cancer survivors descended upon Huletts Landing in Lake George, NY. We arrived from all parts of the country, mostly not knowing one another except from Facebook posts. But upon arrival, and over the course of the four days, we shared the stories, created the memories, and simply were ourselves. We didn't need to worry about how we looked, how often we needed the restroom, what our finances were, or anything further than that weekend. We talked about oncologists, side effects, tumor staging, how we were first diagnosed, and therapies. I don't know exactly where I fit within the group, as I was an anomaly as usual. I was the young cancer survivor from when I was in my twenties, suddenly no longer invulnerable. I was the older cancer survivor from when I'm in my forties, resigned to my situation and more concerned about my family. And obviously, I'm the multiple cancer survivor with the genetic predisposition, loving my family but guilty for what I have essentially created. I, like most of the others, had chemo previously, but my side effects from it were either dulled by time or I somehow had it easier than others.
Memories of the weekend will eventually fade, but some will stick longer. The smile on Belle's face as she laughed through the effects of chemo and the travel across the country. The frat boy's charm and wit of Adam as he joked his way through the weekend. The way Krista, Suzie, and Molly tried to put me in compromising positions so I have no political future. Danielle's eyes and the way she absorbed everything as if through a video camera. Hugging Roger and kissing Todd's bald head as we listened to the bagpipes sing their lonesome song lakeside. The list of those departed. The signatures on the Adirondack chairs naming those who have come through the doors before us, and eventually will do so in the future. The "occupied" sign on the restroom that was always in use. Connie and Jim's stories of what people will put in their private parts, and claim it to be accidental. The slushy machine churning out frozen alcohol all hours of the day. The girls (sorry, my fatherly voice just took over), and how I could only think of my own children when I see them have cancer at such an early age. Kathy's insistence that we live 50 years post cancer like she has. Papa Jim drinking red wine with ice through a sippy cup. The refusal to let a day of rain keep us from climbing the mountain. Troy's creativity. I could go on.
Lake George to me is an apt location. The water and surrounding mountains are a constant reminder that we are just sands in the hourglass of time. I don't think I'll make it to the history books someday. That's for the unltra-driven or ultra-lucky. This truly wasn't about the photography, although the camera staff made me feel special and look even better. However, the photo shoot was my snapshot in time. As I've said, I haven't felt this good in years, and since I don't know the duration of my future, I, like most with me this weekend, want this to be how I am remembered. Aliveandkickn.
I was surprised to know that the above blog post was used as the ending to Molly McMaster's Book, Skating Uphill. Molly can sell colon cancer awareness better than anyone, including me. I hope her book gets published, as it reminds me of my story, albeit hockey instead of soccer. So far, my Colondar year has not lost anyone to this battle. Other years haven't been so lucky. This year, like last, I am a Board Member in the Colon Club. My role is to help raise money and awareness for the cause, and to help teach the new Colondar models how to turn their 15 minutes into 16 or more.
I hope I do a good job.