Megan Pischke: Boarding after breast cancer
January 22, 2015
VAIL — Megan Pischke appreciates a powder day in Vail. The professional snowboarder is a valley native, and the turns she took on Tuesday after a fresh 6 inches fell were the first she had taken on her home mountain in three years and the first she had taken here as a breast cancer survivor.
"We're just having so much fun out here; it's going to be hard to stop and come in," she said on a call to me at 11:30 a.m.
She phoned as I was preparing for our lunchtime interview, scanning a recent press release and watching the trailer to "Chasing Sunshine" — the reason why Pischke is back this week in her home state of Colorado. Pischke is visiting from Squamish, British Columbia, where she lives with her two kids and husband, David Carrier Porcheron, professional snowboarder commonly known as DCP.
Seeing the short clips from the documentary brought tears to my eyes. I watched scenes of this woman — an athlete, a wife and a mother — treating her cancer through 16 rounds chemotherapy and cold cap therapy, her vibrant blue eyes hinting of her story, her hopes, her fears and her faith.
When Pischke called me between her powder turns, her voice was as elevated as the peak I imagined her standing on in that moment, as recognizably full of joy as voices of friends I had heard share similar life-affirming epiphanies.
Put simply, life is too short to put on the brakes during a perfect powder day. I found myself contented that she chose the mountain instead of me.
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I asked what time would work for her. Name the time, name the place, I said, and I'll be there.
She suggested 3 p.m. at Vendetta's.
Once a Vail girl, always a Vail girl.
"Canada is my home now, but there is just something about Colorado," she said as we sat for the interview. Her ruffled brown braid draped out of her white beanie and onto her flannel-covered left shoulder. "This place just has the biggest piece of my heart. It's where I grew up, and I will always have very fold memories of this place. Today was a good day."
Leaving cancer and 'Chasing Sunshine'
Pischke was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in October 2012, at the age of 41. Just one month earlier, she had been hosting a surf and wellness retreat for breast cancer survivors — one of the many she had led in her 17 years as an ambassador for the Boarding For Breast Cancer (B4BC) nonprofit foundation.
She said she is excited to bring her story home and that it just made the most sense to premier "Chasing Sunshine" in Colorado.
On Wednesday, the former X Games athlete shared her story in the debut of the documentary film, a rare and real-life look at cancer, the rigors of treatment and the beautiful side of survival.
In the months of treatment that followed her diagnosis, B4BC documented Pischke's experiences through both western and non-traditional cancer care. She went to two doctors, one modern medicine and one naturopathic, and she said it was a good combination for her.
"The first thing you're gonna do," Pischke said her naturopathic oncologist told her after examining the lump in her breast, "is you're gonna kick this thing's ass. And then you're gonna move on, forever."
That was the spark, the hope that she had been waiting for.
"It took that one spark," she said. "And I thought, 'What if I could be that one spark of hope,' and that's when this project really started coming together."
Pischke said the film's title was born out of the positive mantra she created around her experience — to find the sunshine, even during the grayest of moments.
"It rains a lot in the Northwest," she said with a smile. "But I was always like, 'I know it's up there, and today's a really s—ty day, but it's only temporary — it's gonna get better.'"
On this sunny January powder day, Pischke had been in remission for 18 months, and she said "gratitude" is a sentiment not even big enough to express what she feels to be on this side of her story.
"Without a doubt, my experience as a pro snowboarder and B4BC ambassador have prepared me for this next part of my journey," she said. "I am humbled by the outpouring of love since my diagnosis and have gained a deeper appreciation of the importance of community and connecting with the world around you during the most vulnerable of times. Every morning I open my eyes, I am so grateful for another day."
For more information about "Chasing Sunshine," visit http://www.chasingsunshineproject.org.