TWU alumni impact lives touched by cancer

Less than a year after TWU alumni Mike (’06) and Bonnie (Chalmers ’07) Lang were married in 2007, Mike started having trouble breathing during physical activity. He went to the doctor thinking he would get a prescription for asthma medication. Instead, he got an x-ray of a grapefruit-sized chest tumor—and a cancer diagnosis.

Although it was difficult, Mike realized he had to engage with what was happening in his body. “I couldn’t just pretend it wasn’t happening,” he said.

Before his diagnosis, Mike ran adventure trips with inner city kids from the Pacific Northwest. Afterward, he and Bonnie began to wonder whether similar trips might be helpful for people going through cancer—people like him. “That’s when we came up with the idea to start running adventure trips with young adult cancer survivors,” said Mike.

Five years later, Mike and Bonnie’s company, Survive & Thrive Cancer Programs, regularly runs three adventure trips—a kayaking expedition, a sailing voyage, and a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon—with a fourth in the planning stages. In partnership with Hands On Films, they have produced three internationally-recognized feature-length documentaries, with a fourth in the works. And they have helped transform many lives touched by cancer.

The Langs credit their ability to effectively lead the trips to their recreation education at Trinity Western. “In some ways we feel like we’re using our degrees more than most people we know,” said Bonnie.

Mike agrees. “I think it’s the most applicable thing I’ve ever done,” he said, “because it’s all about facilitating groups and connecting diverse people together.”

Though outsiders may look at the young adults on their trips and see pain and misery, Mike and Bonnie see people with incredible potential—shaped by the challenges they’ve faced early in life. “It’s a different way of viewing cancer patients. Not as people who are damaged goods but as people who have a whole lot to offer the world,” said Mike. “And that’s how we try to view ourselves, too.”

For transforming their difficult personal challenge into an opportunity to give back to the cancer community, Mike and Bonnie received the 2014 Recent Alumni Achievement Award. You can watch their story, as well as the stories of other Alumni award recipients, at twualumni.org.

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