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Cancer survivors paddle the Pamlico

They took to the water on Tuesday, setting out on a kayak jaunt up the Pamlico River. Some had never been on the river before; some overcame a fear of the water; all of them facing the biggest challenges of their lives: cancer.

The outing was part of the support and survivorship program at Vidant Cancer Care in Greenville — a way to promote community and help each cope with cancer.

“The kayaking event was really designed to help evoke meaning in one’s life through direct contact with nature, environment, outdoors, wildlife,” said Jenny Higgins, a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist and coordinator of the program for Vidant Cancer Care. “We do these really, ideally, fun outings, but there really is a psychotherapy component to that experience.”

Higgins said outings such as the kayak trip are an opportunity for survivors to make a connection, whether the connection comes from overcoming fear of a new experience or discussion with peers along the way about fear of what the future looks like. She said while the group of 20 spoke was there to experience life and nature on larger scale on the river, they also spoke about the many opportunities to make that same connection on an everyday basis such as drinking coffee on the back porch, walking the dog around the neighborhood or meeting a friend in the park.

Survivor is a broad term, ranging from those just diagnosed and yet to have any treatment, those in the midst of treatment, those who are post-treatment and in remission, as well as terminal patients.

“Survivor means anyone within that spectrum,” Higgins said.

Trips to Sylvan Heights Bird Sanctuary, deep sea charter fishing, garden classes and wellness retreats, as well as a few hours spent kayaking on the Pamlico out of Inner Banks Outfitters, helps participants learn the skills to cope with cancer at all levels of survivorship. Vidant Cancer Care offers the free programs once a month to survivors and a caregiver; the same types of programs are offered through the Marion L. Shepard Cancer Center in Washington.

Anyone who’d like more information about the programs can call Higgins at 252-714-3905 or the Marion L. Shepard Cancer Center at 252-974-9409.