The Story of Survive & Thrive Expeditions
Mike grew up in Calgary, AB, hating everything to do with the outdoors. That all changed when he skipped his last high school exam (physics…), took off to Europe and fell in love with mountaineering and rock climbing in the Austrian Alps. A year later Mike ended up back in Vancouver, Canada at Trinity Western University (TWU) after traveling through the Middle East, a small part of Africa and most of Europe. At TWU he co-founded the extremely popular Trinity Western University Outdoor Club and lead over 30 trips with activities such as rock climbing, rafting, backpacking, surfing, biking, skiing and winter camping. Mike graduated with a Bachelors of Human Kinetics in Recreation, minor in Biology and a 3.7 GPA. In Mike’s 2nd year of university he met his future wife, Bonnie.
Bonnie grew up in Walnut Creek, California and was very active with Young Life, youth groups, and running in both cross country tack and field. She competed at the California State Cross Country Championships and spent all four years running hard and loving it. After graduating from high school she decided to leave home and go to university in Canada at TWU because she wanted a change of scenery and climate (she loves the rain!) and as she wanted to pursue French. It did not take long, however, for her to discover her passions as she launched into leadership roles on campus as a Resident Assistant, Community Facilitator, and as a leader of the Trinity Western Outdoor Club after Mike graduated and left it in her care. Through friends and new experiences at TWU, Bonnie grew to love rock climbing and hiking and proved to be a great match for Mike as they dated throughout university. She graduated with a degree in Leadership Communications and a minor in Recreation.
On December 15th, 2007, Mike Lang and Bonnie Chalmers were married in Plain, Washington surrounded by a handful of friends, family members and beautiful snowy fields. They spent 18 months working with YD Adventures in Washington State, taking junior and senior high school students white water rafting, backpacking, kayaking, and rock climbing. In March 2008, Mike was diagnosed with cancer and they both moved back to Calgary, Alberta.
Mike’s Cancer Story:
In May 2008, Mike was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma Stage 3. He had a persistent cough and when he was hiking and skiing and was wheezing. He went to the doctor thinking that he had asthma and found out that it was actually a softball sized tumor in his chest causing the breathing issues and that he had other tumors of varying sizes all over his body. The diagnosis was obviously a bit unexpected. So, Mike and Bonnie packed everything up in 3 days and moved from Washington state into Mike’s parents basement in Calgary to start treatments.
Three months into Mikes treatments was a real low point. He was very depressed and all he could think about was when this terrible experience would be over. It got to the point where one day he just laid down on his face in the basement and cried out to God in complete anguish and anger asking all the cliche questions like “why me? why now? I don’t deserve this?” As he was laying there, he all of a sudden realized that this cancer thing was a big deal. It was not just a short speed-bump or temporary detour in his life. It was a life changing experience that was affecting his world view and fundamentally changing how he thought.
Just like leaving home, traveling the world and going to university had shaped him, this cancer journey was shaping him. Up until that point Mike was trying to deal with cancer by just sitting in the basement with his eyes closed, waiting for it to be over so he could get on with life… and he realized that although cancer might not kill him, it could destroy him emotionally if he let any bitterness take hold of his heart.
In that moment Mike believes that God helped him realized that he need to engage with this cancer experience so that he could learn from it, make changes in his life and impact others lives through it. So Mike began to think of how he could engage fully with this cancer experience and together with Bonnie they came up with the idea of Survive & Thrive Expeditions.
The first Survive & Thrive Kayaking Expedition was held in July 2009 and that trip was turned into the documentary film, Wrong Way to Hope: An Inspiring Story of Young Adults and Cancer. Since 2009, Mike and Bonnie have lead 3 kayaking expeditions and a sailing expedition as well as facilitated over 20 national retreats, conferences and support group events with young adult cancer survivors. Mike now works part-time as the CancerBRIDGES Survivor Network Coordinator for the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, AB, travels all over North America screening the film Wrong Way to Hope and speaking, and organizes expeditions with Survive & Thrive in his spare time. Bonnie is a personal trainer and encourages to live life to the full through her fitness blog.
To hear more about Mike and Bonnie’s adventures with the WW2H film please visit: www.wrongwaytohope.com