- Associated Press - Friday, September 18, 2015

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - A group of people who battled cancer at a Cedar Rapids hospital are about to embark on a hiking expedition in the Rocky Mountains.

Several cancer survivors, family members and Mercy Medical Center staff will leave for Colorado on Sept. 23 to spend time in nature nearly 1,000 miles away from home, and then return to Iowa five days later.

“I haven’t hardly been anywhere in my life,” said breast cancer survivor Traci Patterson. “But I love hiking, I love being physical. This is just perfect.”

Physical therapy technicians at the hospital have been helping them prepare for the journey over the past few weeks.

“We have a wide variety of people who go to the gym and take exercise classes and then other people who still exercise but it’s more walking,” said physical therapy technician Matt Templeton, one of three specialists who has helped with the training. “It’s been a little challenging to find exercises that fit everyone.”

On Thursday, the group finished their training and broke in their new boots by hiking up and down the hospital’s parking ramp.

“Everyone’s just been talking about it: things they’re going to see, things they’re going to take pictures of,” Templeton said. “If they can get through the long bus ride there, that’s all they have to worry about, I think they’re ready for sure.”

A Colorado-based group called Live by Living organizes the trips and provides trained guides. The effort is meant to help cancer survivors heal after reaching remission, KCRG-TV (http://bit.ly/1Yk9KU2 ) reported.

“I didn’t know I’d ever get to this point,” said colorectal cancer survivor Angie Turner. “You can’t let it consume you. You have to keep going. Keep as normal as possible and go from there.”

For Turner, the trip to the Rockies will commemorate the end of a yearlong battle with cancer, which has given her life new meaning.

“You tend to reprioritize things a little bit, look at your life differently,” she said. “You don’t take so many things for granted, now you have a second chance.”

Mercy eventually hopes to continue offering the program each year.

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Information from: KCRG-TV, http://www.kcrg.com

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