Before I talk about my amazing experience with Athletes for Cancer, who recently changed their name to Project Koru, I need to bring you up-to-date. Speaking of dates, I did not go out with J. He sent me a text message saying he was no longer interested in pursuing a potential relationship. He didn’t give me any explanation. I have a feeling it’s because I talked about him in the previous blog. I’ve learned my lesson there. I’m honest to a fault which sometimes works against me. Oh well, there are plenty of fish in the sea. I refuse to censor myself on my own blog. This is a place where I can express myself and find healing. I want to be with someone who appreciates my personality and finds it endearing. The Dayton Book Expo (see picture below) went really well. I met a bunch of authors and talked with several survivors. At the risk of sounding like a salesperson, I had never developed a short pitch to describe my book. I have since realized it’s okay to have one and quite necessary for a book fair.
The day before I left for Maui, I was completely terrified, which seems silly now since I was flying to paradise! I had never flown that far away from home. On the way there, I had three flights, 14 hours of travel. On the way back, I only had two flights, 11 hours of travel. The flights weren’t bad after all. I read a book, slept, listened to music, and watched a few television shows. I made the mistake of getting a smoothie instead of a turkey sandwich before my long flight and then I was grumpy upon arrival. My mom and brother gave me pep talks over the phone. I think it was fear of the unknown, leaving my comfort zone, and not wanting to feel out of control. Ironically, that was exactly what I needed. I was feeling stuck and isolated here. I definitely got unstuck and have become part of a fun community. I’m going to continue to create a life filled with joy, meaning, and purpose.
Once I got to Maui and met the counselors and survivors, I instantly relaxed and knew I had made the right decision. Most of my worries went away and I was able to be in the present moment. The funny thing about camping, you become very resourceful very quickly. The flashlight I wasn’t even sure why I was bringing, became my best friend at night when walking to the bathroom. It was fun to light the path and make sure I wasn’t stepping on a critter, that is, a giant cockroach, centipede, or cute lizard. It also taught me that being clean isn’t the most important thing in the world and towards the end of the week I didn’t even mind getting into bed with dirty feet. There’s something soothing about being on the beach and listening to the sound of the waves. I will never forget that sound. It was so awesome. Once I made friends with the sand and the heat, I had a good time. The coconut water and shave ice were very refreshing.
What would I have done differently? I would apply a generous amount of sunscreen on my legs the first day. I don’t have a good excuse. What would’ve taken me under two minutes to apply, has cost me about two weeks of pain and annoyance. I learned my lesson. Lots of lesson learning this month. Also, I would’ve packed some cooler clothing: a swimsuit coverup, sundress, and tank top. I didn’t have anything cute to wear on the last night when we had the ohana ceremony and that was a bummer. While some of them were working on their tans, I was trying not to get burnt to a crisp! Now, I feel more than ready to hop into my apartment’s pool, it’s salt water not chlorine, when it opens in a few weeks. And I will be using my sunscreen!
I also need to mention my roommates, Tidal and Monarch, who were the perfect cabin mates for me. They were very understanding when I was still up folding my clothes, which is something that soothes me and makes me feel in control. It definitely put things in perspective, everyone else was in bed going to sleep and I was organizing my stuff! We had such busy days that I needed all the rest I could get. It was neat to see how they could throw their stuff in their suitcase and everything didn’t have to be perfect. I also noticed they were able to take a quick shower, whereas, I felt better waiting until the evening when I wouldn’t be rushed. Tidal also helped me with trying to do things faster, even saying something like: 3, 2, 1, Go! What we noticed is that I overthink things instead of just performing the task. I worried about having a schedule and being ready on time, but it actually helped me by forcing me to think quicker and move faster.
How did I get my power name? This is a good story. My mom drove me to the airport on the morning of my departure. It was pouring rain and I was half asleep. Surprisingly, my nerves had calmed down and I was getting really excited. I started thinking about what my power name should be and how we were going to have to share it when we got there. The next thing I knew, a white truck passed by with a small picture of a bird and the word LARK written below it. I looked over at my mom and said, “Well, there’s my power name.” I thought it sounded really strong and cool. I’m glad the name came to me organically and ripe with symbolism. Birds represent leaving the nest and being brave. They trust their wings to carry them. It’s how tiger girl gets out of the tree. She doesn’t go back down the way she came, she flies! She becomes Lark – a strong, powerful woman. Woohoo! 🙂
During Camp Koru, I experienced healing on many levels. I had several cathartic moments where I was able to release grief, pain, and anger, the old survivor baggage that was weighing me down. I enjoyed surfing and standup paddle boarding. I’m confident in my athletic ability, talent I was given at birth, and being active makes me feel good about myself. I enjoyed the time I spent in the water learning the two awesome sports. What was even more amazing, I got to learn them with my new group of friends. From the moment I got there, I felt a special bond with them that I have never felt with anyone else before. I would imagine that’s how war veterans or alcoholics feel when they go to a support group. It was like nothing had to be said. They just knew. They had been through the same hell. They had to fight. I felt accepted and supported from the moment I got there.
I won the Tenacity award (see picture above) one night at the camp fire, Aurora presented it to me. And then the next day was really rough, my self-doubt came back with a vengeance and the blister was bothering me. I was really looking forward to hiking to the waterfall, but the hike proved to be quite difficult. It was muddy and the rocks were very slippery. Not to mention my left foot had swollen to three times its size and I was carrying a beach bag on my right side, a back pack would’ve been much better. I was basically useless on both sides and kept slipping off of the rocks. It was pretty embarrassing. And yet, the blister didn’t pop. Even my blister is tough! I won’t insert the picture here, but let me tell you, it was a doozy. I think I was a bit exhausted, too. I was walking faster than my feet would carry me. I had hit my happiness threshold and found myself running from an experience that I dearly wanted but couldn’t handle at the time.
Another thing worth mentioning is the beauty of Maui; it’s breathtaking, remarkable, and humbling. I’ve seen my share of mountains from Colorado to Utah to Montana and even the wonderful Great Smoky Mountains. But the mountains in Hawaii have a presence to them, they are living and breathing and filled with spirit. The natives are also filled with this aloha spirit, I think it comes from living on the island and being surrounded by peace and love. It’s simply amazing! 🙂 I had no idea how special it is there. So, it’s not surprising that a few days ago, I felt completely depressed to be back here. I think it’s pretty normal to come down from a high like that. There aren’t too many places that can equal the beauty of Maui. Surprisingly, I didn’t take many photos. Bear took photos of everyone from Camp Koru 29 which I re-posted on my brand new Facebook page. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/julie.knose.79
I will be forever grateful for my experience and I don’t regret any of it. Well, maybe the sunburn and blister! Although, pain is a teacher. It forced me to say the two words I rarely say or said, “It hurts.” I’m glad it’s healing and no longer hurting me. I’m a lucky girl. Lucky to have met an amazing group of friends. We went through hell and we deserve every bit of joy and happiness. I am proud to be a survivor, if it means standing in their company. We survived the darkness so that we can live in the light. That’s our job. That’s all we have to do. No stress. No pressure. Just being you is enough. Just living is enough. Just reaching out is enough. God gives us opportunities like these to heal and play and laugh. Life isn’t without pain, yet having friends who understand makes the pain go away. That’s why a cancer survivor camp is the most awesome thing in the world. We aren’t alone, we have each other, and being loved is the best feeling in the world.
Have a great week,
Julie aka Lark 🙂
Oh what the hell, the blister was pretty remarkable!!