Survive & Thrive Cancer Programs is a Canadian registered charity which provides once-in-a-lifetime adventure experiences, weekend retreats, and local activities, to encourage and inspire young adult cancer survivors to live well.

The Story of Survive & Thrive

May 2008, Mike was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma Stage 3b. He had a persistent cough and while hiking and skiing Mike 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. In 3 days Mike and Bonnie packed up everything and moved from Washington State into Mike’s parents’ basement in Calgary to start treatments.

Three months into Mike’s treatments was a real low point… He was very depressed and all Mike could think about was when this terrible experience would be over. It got to the point where one day he 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?” and thinking, “I don’t deserve this!” As he was laying there, all of a sudden he realized that this cancer thing was a big deal. It was not just a 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. 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 realized that he needed to engage with his cancer experience so that he could learn from it and make changes in his life through it. So Mike began to think of how he could engage fully with his cancer experience and together with Bonnie they came up with the idea of Survive & Thrive Cancer Programs. 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 many wilderness expeditions as well as facilitated or spoke at hundreds of retreats, conferences and support group events with young adult cancer survivors. Mike now has his MSc. in Health Services Research, and works part-time with the Patient Centred Care Integration Department of Cancer Control Alberta and as a research assistant on numerous projects at the University of Calgary. He also travels all over North America screening films, speaking, and organizing expeditions and workshops with Survive & Thrive in his spare time. Bonnie is a personal trainer and encourages others to live life to the full through her blog at bonnielangfitness.com.

Core Values

Authentic Community

We strive to cultivate an authentic, caring and supportive community in everything we do to reverse the isolation that many cancer survivors feel.

Empowerment

We desire to empower those touched by cancer by giving them the opportunity to discover their capabilities and provide life skills to manage the tumultuous transitions and emotions of a cancer journey.

Life to the Full

We want everything we do to not just be about cancer, but life in general, encouraging each to other to live life to the full.

Risk

Giving people the chance to take calculated risks, either on an adventure trip or in a conference room, allows them to step outside the narrow boundaries placed on them by their cancer experience and encourages them to risk more in their everyday lives.

Openness & Honesty

By being open and honest about our own cancer journey, we encourage others to do the same. Each individuals story is full of wisdom and should not be censored. We believe that only by listening to each other in a non-judgmental, loving way, are people free to learn and to heal.

Experiential Learning

We believe that experiential learning, where environments and experiences are used to create opportunities for people to learn what they need to live well, is essential to everything we do. We strive to increase awareness of physical, emotional and spiritual issues as well as providing a practical opportunities to live out newly discovered life lessons.

The Facilitator Team

  • Mike Lang

    MIKE, CO-FOUNDER & ED Mike in 3 words: Happy Introspective Creative. Mikes love to be outside with great people. He was planning on being a ski patroller for his career,…...

  • Bonnie Lang

    BONNIE, CO-FOUNDER Bonnie in 3 words: Cheerful Consistent Adventurous. Fun Facts: What’s your favorite ’90s jam? Third Eye Blind – “Semi-Charmed Life” What is your favourite outdoor activity? Kayaking and…...

  • Matt

    MATT, TRIP FACILITATOR Matt in 3 words: Charismatic Fun Intentional. Hailing originally from Medicine Hat, I came to Calgary to study Kinesiology and to train on the High Performance whitewater…...

  • Jenna

    JENNA, TRIP FACILITATOR Jenna in 3 words: Excitable Curious Creative. Being outside enjoying beautiful spaces with other people makes me come alive! Whether it’s taking a stroll through the trees,…...

  • Danielle

    DANIELLE, PROGRAM COORDINATOR Danielle in 3 words: Adventurous, introspective, independent. Over the years people have called me many things: Urban hippie, feral accountant, dirt-bag rock-climber. In 2016, I was given…...

Survive & Thrive also has many incredible partnerships that make our programs happen.