Hunter LaFave

Leader. Outdoor Enthusiast. Survivor. 

At age 30, Hunter LaFave was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer. He completed 40 rounds of chemotherapy, 28 sessions of radiation and went through at least seven surgeries, including an emergency heart surgery and one to repair a prolapsed ostomy.

“I had 3 different oncologists because I never found one who advised on lifestyle, diet, mental health, and emotional support,” said LaFave. “It wasn’t even mentioned.” His first oncologist actually advised him to eat red meat and drink alcohol and said that sugar didn’t affect cancer. He told LaFave “ to just rest and give up responsibility,” and went as far as to say that “acupuncture, fasting or plant-based dieting would kill him.

Feeling lost, afraid, alone, and at times hopeless, Hunter knew there must be another way. “I took the responsibility on myself to heal,” he said.

Hunter believed that with the power of his own mind, alternative therapies, movement, and a variety of mind-body practices, he could beat cancer.

First, Hunter removed his dependency on prescription medications, spending the last seven months of his 12 months of treatment without the use of regimented pills. He started to run, jogging upwards of 4 miles at a time, three to five times a week. Other practices he incorporated included intermittent fasting, acupuncture, plant-medicine, plant-based diet, and meditations, such as the Wim Hof breathing technique.

“None of this came easily and it was a constant battle within myself to choose to do these positive things when I didn’t really feel like it,” said Hunter. “It’s hard to comprehend unless you have been through it, but I feel just wanting to survive or be healthy is not enough of a motivator.  At many points in my treatment, I felt like giving up and the only time I prayed was to not wake up in the morning. But I would tell myself, ‘this won’t be my story, I won’t do this on my knees.’ At times that worked, but when I still didn’t have the strength I would tell myself ‘I won’t let my mother bury me.’  I’d say it over and over again whenever I felt weak or overwhelmed. Sometimes it would take 10 times just to sit up, 10 more to put on my shoes, run to the bathroom to throw up, cry, say it 10 more times to walk outside, sit in my truck and cry, 10 more times and drive to the park to jog. “

Hunter is one of many cancer survivors whose life has been transformed by the cancer survivor community. During the NCAA Final Four, he played in the Hardwood Heroes basketball game, where he met other survivors and felt what it was like “to have someone else who understood.” Through that experience, Hunter was introduced to an organization that sent him on a free water kayaking trip to Montana after his treatment.

“The strength I gained from challenging myself, opening up, expressing what I felt and have it be received and reciprocated by others who had been through something similar was beyond valuable,” he said. Hunter focused on improving his lifestyle, relationships, work, and his own beliefs around himself, which is clear to anyone who meets him. Hunter has a contagious energy and motivated mindset and is sharing his experience to benefit others.

Hunter now runs a website called It’s In Your Head, to help others struggling with a diagnosis, treatment, depression, and other challenges emotionally, mentally and physically. His passion for serving others with community building and the outdoors led him to start Breath of Fresh Air mindfulness treks around the world.

“For me, the mental and emotional toll cancer takes on you is by far worse than any sickness I had felt and there was absolutely no mention by any doctor on how to handle these things.  My goal is to give others what I wish I had in my own treatment. This has also helped me to heal my own emotional scars.”

To learn more about Hunter and the inspiring projects he’s working on, start here.