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Cruise Camp Mak-A-Dream—Anchored in Hope

By Joanie Shawhan

“Bon voyage!”

Shouts echo from shore as a cruise ship shoves off from port, familiar terrain fading into the horizon.

As ovarian cancer survivors at Camp Mak-A-Dream, we embarked our own high seas adventure for theme night—a cruise ship. The camp’s version of Julie from Love Boat greeted us on the gangway as we boarded our mock ship.

Many of us donned sailor costumes, reflecting the uncharted waters of ovarian cancer and chemotherapy we navigated. One camper sported a captain’s hat and grasped a life preserver ring. A reminder that on the choppy waters of ovarian cancer, we grab our life preservers and hold on. Others emblazoned white T-shirts with their motto, “We refuse to sink.”

Campers in formals, furs and glitz waltzed through our ship, embracing the glamour, and for one night, forgetting the baggage we would rather leave behind. We admired costumed tables topped with hand-sewn delicacies while we nibbled on the chef’s specialties.

We frolicked with dolphins, cruised through shark-infested waters and encountered a life-size Captain Jack. His captain’s wheel beckoned us. How we longed to grasp the wheel, captain our own ship, steer into a cancer-free harbor, and drop anchor in the sea of hope.

HOPE—painted in teal on my white sailor’s cap and embossed on the anchor I clasped. An anchor of hope. Hope for a cure. Hope for a future.

At Camp Mak-A-Dream, nestled in the Rockies near Missoula, Montana, ovarian cancer survivors find hope. We find hope in the testimonies and courage of other survivors who have navigated the waters of ovarian cancer, despite setbacks. And one day, we hope for a cure.

Registration for fall camp usually opens in June. Consider embarking on a new adventure and make Camp Mak-A-Dream your next destination. The spring and fall ovarian cancer camps are free of charge for ovarian cancer survivors.

Bon voyage!

Joanie’s Bio:

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor, registered nurse, Selah Awards Finalist for In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer, speaker, and radio and television guest. She speaks to medical students about ovarian cancer in the Survivors Teaching Students program. She belongs to an ovarian cancer group, The Fried Eggs—Sunny-Side Up. You can contact her at

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