Took My Cancer on Vacation

Ann Camden

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Ann Camden

I took my cancer on vacation on the Metolius River. I went to run. I went to find my soul and make peace with my barnacle, cancer.

The Metolius is one of the wildest rivers in central Oregon, and we found that we had a lot in common, that river and me. Tucked in the Deschutes National Forest, the 29-mile river flows fast without slowing down for anything that gets in its way. I sat on a boulder double-knotting my trail running shoes, rehashing all the shit that I cram into my daily planner back home, nearly 3,000 miles away. One activity after another for work, family, church, oncology appointments, morning runs – the list is endless. Commitments often start before daybreak with a morning run and ooze past the 10:00 news as I try to finish just a few more emails. My daily calendar piles up as if I’ll win some cheesy ribbon at the end of the day just for staying busy and making it out of the day alive. Cancer just laughs at me.

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About My Memoir: 

Soon after my diagnosis, I signed up for a running and writing retreat in Sisters, Oregon. Only the organizers knew I was facing Stage IV cancer. It was liberating to be "normal" again for a few days and treated like everyone else. This project is an excerpt from my journal exploring how my cancer diagnosis is like a raging river in the wild – while it is rugged and untamed, there have been beautiful opportunities along the way. I try to embrace them all.

Advice for Others with Metastatic Breast Cancer: 

Take time to grieve, readjust and define your new normal, understanding that what works today may not be what works tomorrow. You can't control that. While a Plan B is a comfort to have in your back pocket, don't skip ahead to the end. Enjoy and embrace what you have today without manufacturing worry about the what ifs. Find a way to control what you can, and focus on those steps.

Why I’m a Hear My Voice Volunteer: 

It's been educational and helped me regain some control over a shitty situation. I've learned how to talk about the disease and identified the platforms I feel comfortable approaching. It's helped me refine my voice and given me the confidence to explore outlets to share my thoughts and perspective. It encourages me to want to do more for the collective group of men and women who are fighting MBC. It opened the door to a level of support from fellow fighters that no one else can touch. It's a very affirmative group.

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