• Courtney LeVesque

It's Not Nothing

a cancer diagnosis changes everything




Let me forewarn you, this is an emotional story. I was lucky enough to cross paths with Lora Young, a hunter, hiker, adventurer, and total badass, a couple of years ago at the Hunt Expo in SLC. Through the process of getting to know Lora, we chatted a lot about hunting stories, our shared passions, and the mountains of New Zealand, a bucket list hunt for me!


Last summer, Lora found herself circling through a new routine stateside after the dreaded COVID hit and closed down many of our international borders, forcing her to head back home to North Carolina.


Lora shifted and decided to head out to complete some more sections of the Appalachian Trail near her home. Along the way, Lora soaked up the trail, hiked for weeks, did some soul searching, and found something that would change her life forever.


What was meant to be a summer of exploration in the great outdoors turned to a cancer diagnosis, chemo, surgery, and life-altering moments that came when she least suspected it.


It’s hard to imagine the weight of that kind of moment, how hearing a diagnosis can change you, stepping into the unknown, involuntarily, and trying to navigate changing emotions through the process. For those who have stood by a loved one when they got the dreaded call from the doctor or received the news first hand, cancer changes lives.



Before Lora or I knew she had breast cancer I wanted to pin her down to record an episode for the Her Inspired Journey Podcast. Because we were both zigging and zagging our schedule hadn’t aligned. But after standing on the sidelines cheering her on as she went began her treatments and underwent a double mastectomy, I hoped Lora would share her experience, and give hope to others who are walking through the same hell.


Check out this exclusive interview and what Lora had to say.


Q: How did you get started in hunting and the Outdoors?


Lora: “I was raised camping, hiking, and canoeing. Mom and dad both were big outdoors

people. Dad always had guns. I got my first rifle when I was 8, but we weren’t a

hunting family. I wanted to hunt but didn’t have the opportunity until I moved to

New Zealand.”


Q: Tell me about your life as a guide - how you started?


Lora: “ I started hunting while I was in NZ on a working holiday visa. Through this, I met

some hunting guides and outfitters and started helping them. Being out hunting

was great. I was privileged to see beautiful, remote sections of NZ and Australia.”


Q: What inspired your hike last year, where did you go, how far did you go? What was the highlight of that trip?

Lora: “After my first backpack hunting trip in Alaska, I really wanted to do a long-

distance backpack hiking trip. I did 19 days on the Appalachian Trail two years

ago. When COVID left me stuck in NC with no job, I thought, why not? I started

hiking the AT with no real plan. I then decided to do the AT/BMT loop. Between

June 1 and August 24, I hiked around 1,000 miles. The plan was to complete the

2,200 mile AT, plus a few other side trails, but my cancer diagnosis put that on

hold.”


Q: What made you decide to see the doctor and have a check-up? Did you feel sick or off?


Lora: “I found a lump in my breast. Rather than it going away, it got bigger. I felt great.”


Q: In the moment you got the cancer result, what went through your head?


Lora: “Disbelief, I was numb. There are days, even now, that I am still numb and still don’t

believe this is all happening.”


Listen in to the full episode on Her Inspired Journey as Lora and I talk about the moments she was diagnosed with breast cancer, how she deals with the process, mentally and physically, and what’s next for her. She is a true pillar of strength with a story that will shine hope to those who need it most.


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