By Phuong Ly-Gallagher

What is Colon Camp?  Simply put, it’s magic.

The Colon Club’s annual retreat is lovingly referred to as Colon Camp.  We bring together colorectal cancer survivors and caregivers of all backgrounds, from all over the country, for a week of pampering and relaxation.  Oftentimes this is the first chance that our campers really have to spend time with others like them – those that were diagnosed when they were under 50.

One of the most common questions asked is, “What do you do at Colon Camp?” Campers arrive at the airport and are picked up by a limo bus.  During the 45-minute ride to the retreat, there is a buzz of excitement, uncertainty, and nervousness.  

Questions like “What did I get myself into?” and “Do I really want to put myself out there like this?” give way to feelings of “Wow, there are others like me!” and “Everyone here really understands” because campers and staff have all “been there” with the disease.

Once campers arrive at the retreat, we have a welcome toast, they are given the grand tour, check out their swag bags, and continue to get to know each other.

During the week, deep and intimate conversations continue (often well into the night), campers are interviewed for their stories in our publication, they have their hair and makeup done, and the spotlight shines on them during their photo shoot.

In between catered meals and hanging at the pool, they share their stories in different ways and learn how to be amazing advocates.  As funny as it sounds, none of this explains what actually happens at Colon Camp.  The only true explanation is magic.

We always tell everyone that they will go home forever changed.  It is a profound transformation.  I remember when they told me at my retreat in 2015.  I thought, “No way!”  Yet, the first words my husband said to me when I got home and bubbled over in excitement with all my stories of Colon Camp were “You’ve changed.”

I didn’t see it, but he sure did, and he was right.  Colon Camp set off a fire in me and I could not stop saying “yes” to opportunities to share my story and to do more to ease the journey for other patients.  Four short years later, I found myself taking the leap into The Colon Club presidency.  

I still marvel at what this short week at Colon Camp sparked not only in me, but the many that came before me, and the ones that continue to come to us year after year.

Time is a funny thing at camp.  It starts slow as everyone gets to know each other, then very suddenly, the week is over and you haven’t had nearly enough time with your new family.  The campers are not ready to leave each other, yet the limo bus is rolling up the drive to return them to the airport where they first met.  It is a bittersweet time and there are lots of tears, but they leave knowing that their Colon Club family will forever be by their side.

Cover Photo- Courtesy of The Colon Club