I was just beginning in the snowboard world. I had a few idols that were supporting a good friend through a rough diagnosis of breast cancer at age 26. Monica, my friend, had fought to get doctors to listen to her when she thought the lump in her breast was a problem.
When one finally did listen, it was too late, as it had metastasized. She wanted everyone to know you are never too young to get this disease, and to advocate for your own health. She wanted to share this message through her community, which was the snowboard community.
So snowboarders such as Tina Basich, Shannon Dunn, and ladies who were leaders in the industry like Kathleen Gasperini, Dawn Kish and Lisa Hudson, put together a snowboard music festival. Sadly, Monica died before the event happened, at the age of 29. But it was an incredible event, and I think it moved every single person that participated, which is how Boarding for Breast Cancer – more commonly known as B4BC – was born. The rest is herstory!
As my own personal snowboard career began to progress, I wanted to also be involved, as not only was I touched by Monica’s story, but my grandmother at the time was also fighting breast and lung cancer. It seemed like a great way to support my grandma Betty, and share the message of health and wellness that I believed I was living through my snowboarding. I was honored to volunteer with such an inspiring group of women that I was learning from, and literally growing up with.
Eventually one of the directors and I collaborated to create the Survivorship Program for the retreats I wanted to do for B4BC. Along with my long time sponsor, The North Face, we were able to create spaces within these snowboard/ yoga retreats, where young breast cancer survivors could attend at no cost. Soon, I wanted to take these retreats to the next level, as I felt there was so much I wanted to learn about health and wellness, and to keep sharing within this medium.
Today I’m still learning from many incredible women at B4BC, and The North Face is still a strong supporter. I am also a breast cancer survivor myself, which added even more to my connection to make these retreats happen.
Now, at B4BC, we are able to have 20+ women each year attend both mountain and ocean retreats, where we snowboard, ski, and surf. We bring in yoga instructors that specialize in trauma, chefs that create healing meals and teach us about how foods and water can be medicine. We also have a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (DTCM), who shares the Chinese medicine perspective on cancers and immune disorders, and offers acupuncture for all guests. Through the retreats and all of those with breast cancer she has met and case studied, our DTCM has actually created a special breast health tincture she offers especially to our guests!
We also have some cool dudes from Four Sigmatic that make mushroom/ superfood supplements and gift our guests with “Superfood Scholarships.” And we have awesome professional ski/snowboard/surf instructors that encourage fun and connection to nature for health and lifestyle.
It’s a gift to me each time I conduct one of these retreat weekends. To see how educating these girls on different modalities of healing, and encouraging them to take a deep interest in listening to their bodies, and trusting their bodies again after such trauma, can create a shift. It’s like a light goes on, and it inspires them to take something home, and learn more. It’s not about telling someone what they need to do to heal – it’s about showing them a path of wellness that perhaps they had never considered before. Or sharpening the tools and intuition they already have tapped into, and of course sharing what I consider to be a top priority in my own personal healing: Mother Nature and our innate connection with her.
I have watched lifelong friendships start in an instant. I watched women share things they have never shared before, because they felt safe to finally cry and they felt understood. I watched the really strong ones feel OK to be vulnerable, and the scared ones paddle out in surf they never felt possible.
Strangely enough, I was a witness to all of this and deeply appreciated it, even before I myself was diagnosed with cancer. So effing crazy how your path is righteously laid out, and you see your work and passions become medicine for what you never even imagined.
These retreats are possible because of events like Amplify – B4BC’s 20th Anniversary Art & Photo Exhibition Fundraiser that happened earlier this month. So of course being a part of so much culture art and history is the best feeling! There are so many people and groups and companies over the years that have felt compelled for whatever reason, personal or not, to continue their support and love for our organization. When I say OUR, I mean everyone’s. B4BC belongs to everyone that needs us, and depends on our voice to advocate for and educate young people on tough subjects, on health and wellness, and being an advocate for our bodies and our planet. Along with all of this and also the support we offer through our retreats, this is something I will continue to strive for, as long as I’m here.
Grateful to be a part of something bigger than me, way way way bigger than me.
Feature courtesy of The Inertia