a thank you?
[although this is the last post, it was the first one i wrote. it is the most personal, and it is a thank you. for that first ohana who was there for me and gave me SO MUCH support and love back in April. a thank you to the staff; the three that truly completed this journey with me, the ones that were there for both camps. and it’s a thank you to the ohana from this last camp, for loving me and accepting me and my journey. I am SO, truly, grateful for each of you.]
Reflecting on that week is taking time. Just when it feels like it went by too quick, almost as if it never happened, you realize that it did. That you spent a week in Maui, on of the most beautiful place in the world, meeting THE most amazing people in the world. I have already told everyone with ears about those I was honored to share the week with. About their stories, their fights, their courage and their spirit. Going to Maui was not a vacation. It wasn’t a time to get away from the real world, it was a time to help us all see what our real world really could encompass. Not just the surf and sand and endless sunshine… I think we all learned what was possible. We learned that we could surf, tell our stories, conquer fears and believe in the future.
Yes this was my epic return to the island. It was my chance to live this journey as the person… no the SURVIVOR that I was not 6 months ago. This journey, this island, THIS organization has given me life. I was not living before. I was lost and confused. I thought I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t know how to get there. I didn’t know what MY STORY was… and I certainly didn’t know how it related to everyone else. I was lost in a world unable to understand the beauty, love and power that was in front of me.
This return was not to work on my tan, or buy those lost souvenirs. It was to LIVE. The last time I learned that I COULD live, that I COULD survive. This time around I LIVED and SURVIVED. I was able to understand MY STORY. What it meant for me to have survived cancer, which was a constant struggle for me before April 2011. The first camp allowed me to open up, to speak about my experience and to see world through the pieces.
I was worried that for this camp I wouldn’t be able to be the person I had become. That I wouldn’t be able to “walk the walk.” I had felt this difference in myself since April and really did feel like I had changed. But it would only be once I was set with that challenge (again) would I be able to BE ME. To test this theory that I had changed, and to test this newfound life I felt like I had begun to accomplish. Once I stepped foot on that camp, into that world, with those people I was able to feel all of those pieces come together. I felt whole, for the first time in a long time… if ever.
There was this moment at camp when it became clear. When I was given a chance to talk about my story and where I was now. I was in an interview with SingleFin and he mentioned the effect my experience had had on the staff… and how they felt that maybe that had missed something the last time around… that maybe they could have done more, and that I hadn’t left feeling the way they wanted the camps to accomplish. It wasn’t until they received my email did they truly realize the impact they had had on my life. THEN the kicker came… the point where we all knew just how much the camp had helped, had given me back life… SingleFin mentioned that as much as everyone else talked about me and the changes I made while at camp… He couldn’t see “Seafoam” in “Coral.” He couldn’t believe that I had once been that insecure, scared, quiet, and lost person. That I could have ever been the fraction of the person I am now.
It’s weird to have this… “person” be SO much of who you WERE, but not who you ARE… to look in the mirror and feel like that person has gone. I am not demeaning the girl I once was. It was that person, that route, that journey that brought me to the person I am today. I am not perfect, nowhere near it, but that’s not the point. The point is that I love my imperfections. I love my story, my life, and the road I have in front of me. I am not living for tomorrow, I am living for today. I am in the moment and enjoying every second. The previous part of my story may have taken 22 years to get through, but it’s only a page in my book. I have a new story, a new life and a new meaning to being a cancer survivor.
Some people may read this and think that it was just timing, merely just coincidence. That these changes were bound to happen and magically it all came together on vacation at a surf camp in Maui. Those people couldn’t be more wrong. These changes happened because of the program and staff that Tonia “Lolo” has put together. These changes would not have happened without Wilson/Goose calling me out that one night at camp fire. These changes would not have occurred if I hadn’t gone to camp. Learning to surf and SUP gave me confidence and faith that I could try new things. That I could fall AND get up. Being in Maui pushed me out of my comfort zone into wearing that swim suit and learning to be ok with ME (physically). The campers, their stories and most of all their support taught me to be ok with ME… ALL OF ME. My story, my experience, my face, my scars, my life, my dreams. They taught me that no matter what, they were there and I had to trust in that.
I came to Maui a second time to finish what I had started the first. I went in insecure that my story was too ‘old’ that I couldn’t relate to these recent fighters. I left with a family of the most amazing people in the world. With best friends I never would have met, and a survivor story that was just as relevant and powerful because now I am LIVING MY LIFE. I AM A SURVIVOR. And Athletes for Cancer gave that back to me.
with all of the love and mana’olana in the world, Coral.