Adventures in NatureRx with CCA Hero, Ana

CCA Hero Ana

Ana was diagnosed with Desmoid Fibromatosis, a cancer of the connective tissue, in 2017.  Normally an outgoing 16-year-old, Ana found herself suddenly anxious and isolated from her friends. Frequent visits to the hospital disconnected her from relationships and she longed to bond with other teens who could relate to her experiences. That’s when she decided to take advantage of Children’s Cancer Association’s (CCA) NatureRx program.

Soothing Anxiety Through Nature

On a whim, Ana signed up for a snowshoeing event through NatureRx. Specifically designed for teens and young adults in treatment, NatureRx offers fun outdoor adventures in a safe, supportive setting.

“NatureRx is so helpful because it’s for teens,” she said. “It means a lot to be around people who understand me—we can all relate to certain things even if our diagnoses aren’t the same.”

Snowshoeing’s Better with Friends

Ana’s first event was snowshoeing on Mt. Hood. She was nervous on the ride up to the mountain—but with snowshoes strapped to her feet and surrounded by supportive peers, Ana found herself in her element. She spent the mile-long hike encouraging other teens to keep going and offered support when anyone stumbled. She even found a new friend and they ended up talking non-stop for the remainder of the four-hour trip.

Ana had so much fun on that excursion that the very next month she returned for NatureRx’s cycling event, where the teens learned to make quick repairs on their bikes and then sweat it out at BurnCycle’s stationary biking studio.

A New Beginning—and a New Support System

Valentine’s Day of 2019 was particularly sweet for Ana—that’s when she learned that she had completed her last chemo treatment. It was a day she thought would never come. “When I began chemotherapy, they never said, ‘You’ll do it for a year, and then you’ll be done,’” she explained.  “It was more like, ‘We’ll see what happens.’

Ana says having no end date made it hard to stay strong—but this fiercely independent teen is no quitter. “I would sometimes complain that I couldn’t do it for so long, and I was tempted to give up,” she admitted. “But I didn’t. I’m really proud of that.”

Now that her chemotherapy is behind her, Ana is now looking forward to getting back to the life she left behind. She’ll be turning her attention back to her beloved math classes and indulging in some of her favorite hobbies like soccer, kayaking, and traditional Mexican dance. When she does, she’ll be backed by a full cheering section of new friends from NatureRx who are rooting for her every step of the way.

As for her future, it’s filled with possibilities. But after her experience with serious illness, Ana says her career path is clear: she wants to work in a hospital so she can give back to other kids just like her.