Feb 11, 2019 9:00 AM

Author: Holly Hagerman

Holly Hagerman and Diane Tanner, friend and fellow co-chair of Pink Park City
Holly Hagerman and Diane Tanner, friend and fellow co-chair of Pink Park City

On Halloween 2014, I was running along the beautiful mid-mountain single-track trail at 8,500 feet in Deer Valley, Utah. My emotions were heavy, fearful of what my diagnosis that day of invasive lobular breast cancer meant. The tears were flying. After a few miles, my feet seemed to be just floating through the ankle-deep piles of aspen leaves. My legs were turning over effortlessly and my heart was on fire. The tears had stopped. This was joy.

I have been running competitively since I was eight years old. Competing in the 2000 Olympic Marathon Trials and winning the Deseret Marathon and the Nike San Francisco Half-Marathon had brought me heavy doses of joy.

I found that in the joy of going all out, I forgot the fear and any other negative emotion associated with cancer. It was exhilarating. I decided at that moment that I was going to invest heavily in joy.

My investment plan started by signing up for my first mountain trail ultramarathon, committing to all of the ski mountaineering races of the winter season, and scheduling a week-long ski tour through the 10th Mountain Division huts in Colorado.

All of the doctors and nurses at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) supported my decision to stay active in the mountains. None of them even blinked an eye when I showed up for my daily dose of radiation wearing my ski mountaineering skin suit so I wouldn’t be late to my regular weekly evening ski races.

The last step in my “investment in joy” plan was a ski weekend getaway to Vail, Colorado, to celebrate healing from my final surgery. As my husband and I neared the town of Vail, there was a lot of energy and the town was literally washed in pink. I immediately googled the event calendar and found that Pink Vail—"the world’s biggest ski day to conquer cancer”—was happening that weekend. We signed up on the spot and participated along with thousands of others who had been touched by cancer and were committed to raising money.

There were crazy costumes, live bands, contests, prizes, and a sense of bonding over a cause that had touched us all. One gentleman, noticing my survivor band, approached me with a smile and a hug and said, “Prostate. You?”

The day ended with a final ski parade down the mountain, a huge river of pink with cowbells ringing. The collective energy of hope that one day cancer will be eradicated gave me goosebumps.

After multiple surgeries in 2015 and 10 months after the initial diagnosis, I learned that the cancer had spread into the muscle of my chest wall. I altered my investment plan just slightly, but this time, I knew what I needed to do. I attended Pink Vail again, but this time I sat in the sun at the top of the mountain on a deck at one of the lodges. The radiation therapy had zapped me of the energy to do much else but sit and take in the infectious joy of everyone around me.

My heart was on fire. I knew then that this event needed to come to Utah. And I knew it would be possible with the Huntsman Cancer Foundation (HCF) team.

With the support of my co-chair, Diane Tanner, and the team at HCF and Vail Corporation, we launched the inaugural Pink Park City event in 2018. It was an incredible day on the mountain, with costumes, games, prizes, checkpoint challenges at the various lodges, and a Rally for Hope Parade at Park City Mountain.

There were countless moments during the day that sparked immense joy—huge belly laughs, happy tears, and hugs with close friends. There were people on their own cancer journey participating however they could, such as the woman who joined the parade in the ski patrol toboggan because her cancer treatment prevented her from skiing.

The Park City and Salt Lake City community raised more than $80,000 in 2018 and more than $160,000 toward cancer research that day in 2019. As Jon Huntsman said, “Cancer moves fast and we need to move faster.” With a commitment to eradicate cancer, and a firm commitment to invest in joy, we are on track to move even faster this year.

group of skiers

About Pink Park City

In its third year, this ski day to conquer cancer will be held at Park City Mountain’s Canyon Village on Saturday, March 28, and 100 percent of the funds raised will benefit vital research for all types of cancer at Huntsman Cancer Institute. 

Pink Park City is a celebration of life with parties on and off the slopes, live music, and giveaways. The all-day event covers Park City Mountain in pink by way of hundreds of skiers in over-the-top costumes.

Friends, family, and neighbors are invited to ski together in Pink Park City’s Rally for Hope Parade. Participants can put together teams to raise funds for cancer research. To register for the event or to donate, visit hope.huntsmancancer.org/pinkparkcity.

Holly Hagerman

Pink Park City Co-chair

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Cancer touches all of us.

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