Cancer Survivor Doubles Up


As a parade of camo-clad men boarded the short flight from Denver to Hayden, Colorado, a woman sat in the seat next to me and promptly asked if I was going hunting. “I’ve been waiting for this hunt for a long time,” she said, “even though I’ll be the only woman among ten men in camp.”

“You’ve hunted elk before?” I asked, trying not to sound chauvinistic.

IMG_0423.JPG“Only once, and loved it,” she replied. “But I’ve had to miss the last three seasons due to illness… a year and a half recovering from the surgery, and then another year and a half with the chemo.”

“Breast cancer?” I sheepishly guessed, not wanting to intrude.

“Yeah, but I think I beat it, and I can’t wait to go elk hunting again… even with all those guys.  I’d hoped to go hunting last year, but a bout with pneumonia stopped that.”

As an outdoors enthusiast, I’d been anticipating this elk hunt for two years and had worried about whether I’d be in shape enough to succeed. But all of that anxiety quickly disappeared when I considered the pain and agony Joan Rector, my seat partner, had suffered.  Suddenly, my cold mountain hunt seemed like a day at the beach compared to the difficult road she had traveled.

Shortly after arriving home I received an e-mail from her, saying she had gotten an elk and a mule deer. She shot her bull at 400 yards and took the mule deer while the men were in camp resting. Joan Rector is not just a survivor… but a thrive-or. Congratulations, Joan! That’s the ultimate means of celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month: wearing pink with a passion.

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Joe Byers
Joe Byers has more than 1,000 magazine articles in print and is currently a field editor with Whitetail Journal, Predator Xtreme, Whitetails Unlimited, Crossbow Revolution, and African Hunting Journal magazines. He’s spent the last three decades depicting the thrill of the chase and photographing the majesty of all things wild. Byers is a member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association and numerous other professional and conservation organizations.