Know what might be more polarizing than politics? Camping.

You all are funny - I posted on my Facebook page and asked for tips as I headed toward the wild wild woods this weekend and got a variety of responses. All made me laugh out loud. They also showed me the mixed feelings people have about sleeping in nature.

Some think camping is one step away from Heaven's pearly gates. Others say the complete opposite. To be honest, I've been in that second camp for quite awhile.

That is until this weekend.


My Camping Dilemma

As a kid, I was not an outdoorsy girl, but after colon resection surgeries and cancer treatment, I've preferred to stay inside. When you're told to avoid sun because you burn easier while on chemo, to skip lake water because your immune system is weakened and to watch what you eat because your GI system doesn't handle stress, unpredictability and new foods well, it doesn't exactly make you "camping friendly."

5 Survivor-to-Survivor Camping Tips

As you can probably gather from some of my posts about birds and arrows, it's been a year of transformation. I've said "yes" to things where my prior answer was "no." So this summer, I took my mom and step-dad up on their offer to go camping. I didn't want my daughter to miss out on a life experience.

Plus, truth be told, I didn't want to feel like I was missing out, too.


I've developed coping strategies for handling many of my chronic side effects over the years. I travel a lot for work and have adapted them for when I'm on the go. This weekend I took things a step further and adapted my tips to fit the outdoors.

Here's how I got myself to say "yes" to camping:

1. Set Bathroom Boundaries.

I must be near a flushing toilet. I don't compromise on that. It doesn't have to be fancy or even private (I let that go a few years ago) - however I need indoor plumbing nearby. I don't feel bad about that. The camping lot had a clubhouse with a toilet I could use. The first thing I did when we arrived was find it. That's my boundary, and it's helped me explore and do a lot more outside.

2. Take Imodium.

I hate taking medicine. I think a lot of us do. But I've had to get over that when it comes to Imodium. I know I'm not the only survivor who struggles with complicated diarrhea, years after surgery and radiation it's still an issue. But 5 or 6 pills of Imodium will help slow down my GI track and allow me to eat more than white bread and rice. I've accepted this and because of that, I can travel for work and go camping. I would not be doing these things without these pills.

3. Pack More than the Bare Necessities.

Some people find minimal packing thrilling. While I do love the simplicity of camping, I do not go simple when packing. I made myself pack 2-3 extra pairs of clothes in case I did have GI issues and needed to change. I also packed all of the lotions and cremes I use at home just in case. Having them in my bag lowered my anxiety, and I could enjoy myself more knowing I had a backup plan if something did go wrong.

4. Eat Comfort Foods.

There are certain foods that calm both my heart and body. They're true "comfort foods." Some of them make no sense. For example, I can hardly eat any meat but I love hotdogs so much, (if I take Imodium) they generally don't bother me. The same goes with a moderation of M&Ms, Cheetos and smores. This weekend I was surrounded by these foods and because I was generally relaxed, I could eat them in moderation. This didn't only make my stomach happy, but it made my heart happy and added to the camping experience.

5. Share the Load.

Combine my driven personality with surviving cancer... sometimes I struggle with sharing the load. But this weekend, there were many hands to lift things, set up the campsite and do the work. Heavy lifting and a lot of moving around stimulates my GI system and often creates painful discomfort. So I forced myself to not push it and find jobs that made more sense for me like helping cook, washing dishes and poking the fire. I still felt like I contributed but I didn't challenge myself or overdo it while outdoors. I lasted the entire time and didn't need to go home early.

My Camping Takeaway

My daughter Mae summed up the trip very well last night on the ride home,

"I hoped I would have fun, but I didn't expect to have a blast!"

This weekend we watched the stillness of a lake's rippling waves. We ate gushy caramel apple pies cooked in a pie iron, and lots of smores. We tromped through crunchy leaves in the woods and learned what a bullfrog sounds like. We watched a wasp lay eggs and sang along to my husband's acoustic guitar. We swam in a lake, we gazed at stars. My friend and I climbed a tree. I spent some alone time and journaled in a tent. Maybe best of all - I had no cell service and kept my phone in airport mode for over 12 hours straight.

It was simple. It was relaxing. It was camping. (Or as my mom put it - "glamping." In full disclosure, I did sleep in the camper.)

It took me many years to get here but I'm proud that I've arrived. I survived a weekend of camping and to my surprise, I loved it. It's amazing what my body can do when it's relaxed.

Now, camping is on that list. I would totally do it again.

Enjoy Some Pics!