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Pink Vail Funds Help Patients Tackle Rough Waters

Emily Tamberino

Edwards CO—Many people would fervently disagree with Dana Clark when she says “I don't look at having cancer as a bad thing.” But others who have participated in Shaw Regional Cancer Center's survivorship programs – from gentle yoga in a studio at Jack's Place to hut trips up Shrine Pass – understand where she's coming from.

Clark from Craig CO was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. Following her radiation treatments at Shaw Regional Cancer Center where she was able to stay at Jack's Place she signed up for Pink Vail™. Anticipating its fourth year this March Pink Vail has become known as the world's biggest ski day to conquer cancer. Proceeds from the annual fundraiser directly benefit patient care and survivorship programs at Shaw.

“I wanted to give back to all the people who helped me get well” says Clark who participated again in 2014 and along with a record 1625 participants helped raise nearly a half million dollars.

Since Pink Vail last spring Clark and other cancer survivors have participated in outdoor adventure camps and hut trips yoga Pilates and fitness classes and one-on-one counseling support groups and monthly survivorship gatherings. Thanks to Pink Vail these experiences and services are available to all Shaw patients and survivors through Spirit of Survival a comprehensive wellness program that addresses the physical and emotional effects of cancer and empowers survivors to thrive during and after treatment.

“Spirit of Survival is a cornerstone of the Shaw experience” explains Doris Kirchner President and CEO of Vail Valley Medical Center. “It's only fitting that this special program is funded by such a fun and unifying event as Pink Vail.”

This summer Pink Vail proceeds paid for 12 cancer "thrivers" (the word of choice rather than "survivors") to participate in a weekend kayaking trip on the upper Colorado River through Epic Experience an outdoor adventure camp for individuals diagnosed with cancer. Participants ranged in age from early 40s to 70s.

“It was amazing" says Margaret Brammer clinical social worker and survivorship coordinator at Shaw. “They all went through the rapids like champs. During a quiet contemplative moment on the river one woman yelled out 'This is the best day of my life!' Then someone followed that by shouting '...yet! The best day of your life yet!'”

Judy Wallace from Breckenridge was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and underwent radiation and chemotherapy at Shaw throughout the summer. Commuting back and forth for her treatments took a toll since as she explains “the summers up here are only about five minutes long.”

Being able to participate in the kayaking trip rejuvenated her spirit. She says “Being around the other gals who went through treatment was almost spiritual...with every passing hour I just felt lighter. We all bonded instantly.”

Brenda Lee an Eagle-Vail resident was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago and immediately underwent surgery. Within one month of finishing her radiation treatments she began doing Shaw's Fit For Survival and restorative Pilates programs as well as participating in group snowshoe outings in the winter and hikes in the summer. After a hut trip in August she wrote a thank you letter to Shaw staff explaining how moved she was by the trip and how she has “replayed it in my mind over and over.”

“Cancer is a scary diagnosis but from the day I first sought medical attention to the end of my treatment I had such support and care that my fears were minimized” Lee wrote.

Everyone has been or will be touched by cancer at some point in their lives. Scheduled for March 21 2015 the goal of Pink Vail is to commemorate a united fight against the disease. Participants and donors are personally motivated by their experiences with cancer and through their fundraising efforts patients and survivors are empowered to fight their battles revive and in many cases discover a new and powerful feeling of self-worth.

“We want everyone undergoing treatment to have the opportunity to participate in our survivorship programs in their own way” Brammer says. “Not everyone needs to make it to the top of mountain to feel fulfilled. For some taking that first step to the base is a huge success. For others it's showing up to a support group for the first time or having an honest conversation with family.”

Before the Spirit of Survival's latest hut trip Brammer shared a nugget of wisdom with the group: “In this life we are all just walking up a mountain. We can sing as we climb or we can complain about our sore feet.”

“The goal of Spirit of Survival is to give everyone an opportunity to sing” Brammer says. “I see these individuals from both ends of the spectrum – during the hardest times when they are diagnosed and going through treatment to hiking to the top of a mountain or paddling down a rough river. Similar to the river ride cancer can toss you around a little bit. But how great is it when you get to take back some control and charge through that rapid? It's a real honor for me to work with these folks. They are my reason to sing.”

Shaw Regional Cancer Center a service of Vail Valley Medical Center is for anyone seeking comprehensive cancer care in a peaceful and intimate setting. Patients travel to Shaw for their Ivy League doctors top-of-the-line equipment — including the best technology available for radiation therapy and 3D mammography — and impeccable reputation for breast and prostate cancer treatment. The multidisciplinary approach of their cancer care team benefits each patient's individualized treatment plan supporting the patient and family through treatment all the way to survivorship. One of the country's premiere boutique cancer treatment facilities Shaw Regional Cancer Center has been recognized and accredited by some of the top cancer organizations in the country including the American Society of Clinical Oncology Cancer Foundation® Susan G. Komen for the Cure® American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC) and the American College of Radiology (ACR).

Similar to a run or walk to support cancer Pink Vail is a fundraising event in which participants ask their friends and family to support their ski day on Vail Mountain. All proceeds from this annual event benefit patient care and the “Spirit of Survival” program which offers all patients at Shaw Regional Cancer Center in Edwards CO the opportunity to receive an individualized exercise plan emotional support through individual counseling group support and activities nutritional education outdoor adventures and much more. In its first three years Pink Vail has raised over $1 million dollars for patients and survivors from Eagle and Summit Counties as well as surrounding regions and around the country.

For more information about Shaw's Spirit of Survival program visit