Taken aback by the question, I immediately started recounting my last half hour in the store trying to remember if I had revealed this information to anyone in the store within an earshot of this woman now standing partially in the rain.
It quickly dawned on me that I recognized her from the checkout line, she had been standing behind me as I was purchasing a large quantity of organic vegetables to which I intended to make juice with, she must have seen the yellow plastic bags on the conveyor whilst I was waiting to pay for my groceries. Then it hit me, she must have been listening when one of the clerks made a comment about how nice my hair was looking since it started growing back atop my head.
That comment with the sight of the vegetables on the conveyor belt and it being 9:30 at night, I was instantly impressed by her intuition and her ability to put so much information together from just a couple of moments while standing in line at the checkout counter.
In the time it took me to turn my head and focus on Lauren standing in my door while hearing that commonly asked question, I experienced a wave of emotions ranging from confusion, to fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and after having focused back on the situation a calm feeling washed over me and I admitted to her, “Yes, I do have cancer.”
In about one minute flat she explained to me that she was the founder of “Adventure Therapy Foundation” and that she wanted to offer me services free of charge to help me deal with the emotional side effects of cancer.
Completely taken aback by her offer, I thanked her for her generosity and explained how much I appreciated what she is doing and that although I wasn’t yet ready for an outdoor adventure that I would love to offer some of my time as a volunteer for her charity.
Why I partnered with ATF?
Lauren brought an uplifting energy into my life at a time when I truly needed it most. Having attended group therapy for more than a year at the time I met Lauren, I was starting to realize I was ready to progress to a new form of therapy, to continue doing the inner work for healing from the emotional side effects of cancer. Now I didn’t know that’s what I needed to do, but after speaking with Lauren I realized that is exactly what I needed to do. I learned a lot about what she offered and about the effectiveness of having these outdoor experiences to let go of fear and anxiety. What stuck with me the most was the theme of “letting go.”
Again, not being ready for an outdoor adventure, I had to relate this to the inner work of letting go vs actually doing something that I would normally be afraid of. This past year, I have had the privilege of working with Lauren, being able to work with her has facilitated many conversations that allowed us to explore this concept of letting go in many different ways. Bottom line is I have learned from Lauren that we can let go of many things in our life that no longer serve us, and in other cases never served us at all.
Initially, I partnered with Lauren because I was inspired by her passion for helping others, and it was that passion that resonated with me. As a kid I remember imagining when I became an adult that I would have a career as a doctor, or a physicist, or some kind of profession that would allow me to help people. As my luck would have it, I wasn’t the academic type, so those dreams were never fulfilled. I wound up being a Power Plant Operator and at 35 was diagnosed with stage 4 blood cancer. Lauren brought an opportunity into my life to become that helpful person I had always wanted to be. You can say that is why I partnered with Lauren Huffmaster.
How is investing your time in ATF impacting your life?
Covid-19 hit hard in California, with lockdowns, and business closure, loss of connections, not seeing family or friends. But oddly, it paved the way for Lauren and I to have even more Zoom meetings because we suddenly had more time to focus on developing Adventure Therapy’s business and smartphone app.
I had lost my therapy outlet as my normal weekly cancer support group was shut down, but instead I’ve been having weekly calls with Lauren, who is the kind of survivor that embodies the survivor mentality. You might even say she survives in spite of cancer. The survivor mentality will take many different forms between individuals regardless if they have cancer or not. Cancer is not the only challenging thing to survive, and survivors of any kind of trauma, disease, or any horrific event in their lives can always teach the rest of us about the survivor mentality whether they know they can or not. I had been talking about “adopting a survivor mentality” during my support group meeting for sometime before I met Lauren. I always talked about it without really knowing what it was or how to adopt it. I simply knew that it was possibly there and that it was something that I would want to adopt.
It wasn’t until I met Lauren that I realized that yes, it is real, and it is possible to adopt it, and that it really is a choice between living in fear, and living fearlessly in spite of fear. Investing my time into ATF has actually been more about investing my time into myself. ATF, and the work Lauren is doing, requires the best parts of a person, and I was not a person with a lot of “best parts.”
I quickly recognized that I need to put myself on a path of self improvement so that I can actually be helpful to ATF and to Lauren.
Has working with Lauren changed your cancer story? If so, how?
My cancer story has completely changed. Early on with a diagnosis many feel they are now dying from cancer. I felt this deeply and it was devastating for many reasons. I felt I would never experienced growing old with my wife, I felt the heartache I would cause my family when I would die, I felt I would miss out on having children, I would never see through the goals I had set for myself, and I felt guilty that I had wasted so much of my time doing things that seemed so meaningless because now the end was insight. These are a few of the emotional side effects of cancer.
I knew I needed help, and that is why I started attending the support group meetings. The support group helped me lay a foundation to recover from the emotional side effects of cancer, Lauren helped me build on that foundation and together we now Rise to the challenge of helping others. We choose to live fearlessly in the face of fear, live without anxiety during anxious times, and choose to isolate ourselves, breaking through to create new deep levels of communication and connections. I live with cancer, and I intend to LIVE until I’m dead, and I will no longer suffer to death! I have experienced the change in my mind with regard to how I view each of the emotional challenges. Lauren has helped me develop the personal tools I need to deal with and ultimately put me in full control over these challenges.