I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer 17 months ago, 9 /24/15--a day I will never forget. I underwent a Mastectomy, Reconstructive surgery and Uterine surgery all within 9 months. My Oncology Nurse Navigator recommended Camp Bravehearts to me for support during my journey. When I attended my first camp, I was a bit nervous not knowing anyone. My fears were quickly forgotten as all the wonderful women there made me feel so welcome and were very supportive. I am so very thankful for being a part of this wonderful organization. It has really helped me through the rough times and the roller coaster rides over the past 17 months. The Staff, volunteers and women of Camp Bravehearts are so very near and dear to me.
I truly commend the Staff and Volunteers who make this happen!
Love the Bravehearts!
Nancy Keelen - 2017
My introduction to Bravehearts came unexpectedly and at a particularly low point. My Braveheart friend, Mary and I, were attending a mutual friend's retirement party. Sitting alone, uncomfortable and in pain, Mary approached me. Until then, I only knew Mary by name and I was happy she spoke with me. It was hard to hear all she said because the room was loud but I heard enough, "I think you'd really like camp" and "you will be so happy if you get involved. ", "I know you’ll love it!" I don't believe in "accidents." In May 2015 I was Dx with stage 3c breast cancer, and in June I lost my job of 30+ years. Much is a blur. Tests upon tests, port implant, surgery, 6 months of the "red death" and 46 radiation treatments and I was lost. I felt erased, as if I never existed. My "aloneness" was poignant but I was powerfully determined to crush cancer and carry on. I feared homelessness, with no income, no health insurance and too sick to do much about it. Through many difficulites I persisted. My humor and my faith kept my head above water. so, when Mary told me about "Bravehearts " I eagerly jumped in! My first camp was Spring, ADIRONDACK ADVENTURE. I LOVED EVERYTHING except I was so sick and fatigued that it was difficult to take advantage of the plethora of activities. I did swing my arse on a horse and was determined to do so!
With Bravehearts, I have learned so much. Above all I learned that "THE ANSWER IS LOVE" (Todd Rundgren &Utopia, 1977) My realization of how much I am loved took me by surprise. Not everyone is so fortunate and I awoke to a new understanding. I know I am fortunate, blessed and I am grateful. That consciousness has changed my EVERY day. The extraordinary leaders and volunteers are staggering in their care and generosity! That selfless giving is so inspirational. Yes, I am very lucky! "I never had a bad day" became my new mantra. The women I have come to know, some since passed from this world, taught me that we possess a wellspring of strength!
Bravehearts embody, seemingly, boundless determination and faith in, NOT what we lack, but rather, what we can survive. Not only what we can endure, but what we can achieve and even surpass our own expectations! We are such an ASSORTMENT! A myriad of backgrounds, ethnicity, convictions, personal stories forge an accumulation of awesome humanity! In an environment of acceptance and celebration WE are all ONE! That just feels good! We teach, learn, encourage, support and LIFT ONE ANOTHER. In some ways, I feel that we "earn " Bravehearts. Just as there are purple hearts, bleeding hearts, black hearts, broken hearts, there ALL sorts of HEARTS. But, WE ARE BRAVEHEARTS. I think a Braveheart badge would be most appropriate! One to be worn with honor, humility, camaraderie, joy and LOVE! "Where there is love, there is life." - Mahatma Ghandi When I return from a BRAVEHEARTS "experience," I feel encapsulated in a afterglow bubble of confidence, peace and the belief that I CAN DO ANYTHING! As "they" say, "if you can bottle it, I'll buy it!" And I would buy BARRELS! Unfortunately "IT" is NOT for sale. Because Bravehearts IS a state of mind. IT sometimes comes quietly, sometimes in a flurry of excitement, but IT is there, all around, and between US, like a whisper in the wind. We are touched and bound gently; but with great power. I know many of my sister's feel the same. We talk AND we listen. Among us, our compassion and empathy is palpable. Remarkably, Bravehearts has been there when I most needed a foothold. Times when I've felt truly forsaken and discouraged. Even when joining a trip seemed an ill-considered decision, I returned wondering "What was I thinking???" Bravehearts nourishes my body, mind and soul. That's simply the truth. My time with Bravehearts changes my perspective to one of fearlessness and courage. I feel BRAVE!
Jeannie Lally - 2017
Thoughts from a few of our Campers
Camp Bravehearts cannot easily be described in words. My first fear was it was going to be all cancer talk and depressing. It was far from that! Did we talk about cancer, yes. Was it depressing, no! It was good to talk and share with others. I learned things I didn't know, and I hope others learned something from me. And fun! Oh yeah, these wonderful ladies know how to have fun and take your mind off whatever may be bothering you. You need Camp Bravehearts and they need you!
Miriam Yeoman - 2017