MERMAID, P.E.I. - Canoeing for hours and camping high in the mountains added up to the trip of a lifetime for an Island cancer survivor.
Dylan Bingley of Mermaid recently returned from a six-day trip in the Outaouais region of Quebec where the 17-year-old learned how to rough it in the wilderness.
“It was really exciting,” said Dylan. “I really enjoy stuff like that.”
The trip, a therapeutic retreat for teenagers who have gone through cancer, was organized by On the Tip of the Toes Foundation. The foundation aims to provide young people living with cancer the opportunity to take a break from their usual environment.
Teenagers are chosen by medical staff at oncology centres across the country and then asked to participate.
“I was on board from the moment they called me,” said Dylan, a Grade 11 student at Charlottetown Rural High School.
Dylan and about 11 other cancer survivors made the trek to western Quebec in September, where they were accompanied by a medical team and local guides.
Dylan had to do everything himself, including cook his own breakfast, set up camp, make fires and be at one with the elements.
Being up on a mountain was new to Dylan, who often took the time to look around and take in the beautiful landscape of trees and water.
“I liked the view for the most part,” said Dylan. “You could pretty much see for miles.”
The campers would canoe about 15-20 kilometres a day.
It was a major difference in lifestyle from where Dylan was just a few short years ago.
At nine years old, doctors thought they discovered a bone infection in Dylan’s leg.
“They drilled a hole in his leg, packed it with this stuff that was supposed to clear it up and about three days later, I guess they got the results back, and it was bone and blood cancer,” said Dylan’s father, Wade.
Dylan was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
He spent the next year in the IWK hospital in Halifax. The following four years were filled with chemotherapy and spinal taps.
In 2015, Dylan went into remission.
“I feel so much better,” said Dylan, whose mountain excursion wasn’t his first experience with On the Tip of the Toes Foundation.
Dylan’s first trip with the organization was in 2015 when he went on a dog sledding expedition in northern Ontario.
He spent each day tending to the dogs, feeding them, and then sledding through passageways in the wilderness in weather that sometimes reached as low as -33 C.
“It’s fun, very fast,” said Dylan. “If (the dogs) go in a straight line, they run pretty fast, but if they’re doing lots of turns they’ll be very slow about it.”
A bonus to the trips for Dylan was getting to meet people around his age with similar life experiences.
“Pretty much all the kids are around my age and we have the same sense of humour, so we were always joking around,” said Dylan.