Live by Living: the beautiful legacy one woman left behind

Photo courtesy of Live by Living

“People ask me, ‘You’re only 50 years old. How can you handle living with a terminal diagnosis like Stage IV?’ The answer is that I live by living, I love by loving, and I am courageous courageously.”
-Julie Wrend, 2004

Julie Wrend was the type of woman people write stories about, a woman who songs would be written about, the type of woman who would have had a Foundation established in her honor.

Julie stole the heart of a man named Dan Miller in 1992.

“When I met her, I thought she had a punk haircut,” Dan said with a glimmer of humor in his eye. “Turned out she was getting her hair back after chemo and radiation.”

Julie and Dan were married for 15 years, before the cancer took her life — but cancer never sapped her inner spirit. Julie took to the mountains every time she needed a pick-me-up. She found solace in nature and reveled in the ability to physically exert her body.

Even one month before she died, you could find her in the great outdoors, seeking peace and joy. Her love of nature inspired Dan to make that her legacy.

“I knew after she died that I needed to turn my grief into something positive,” Dan said. “To turn it into compassion.”

So Dan created the nonprofit Live by Living in Julie’s honor. It combines the couple’s zest for life with the disease that eventually took her life: a beautiful dichotomy.

Founded in 2008, a year after Julie’s death, Dan decided he would help cancer survivors and their caregivers find the serenity and inspiration in the outdoors that Julie did.

In 2014, Dan met Naropa University graduate student Stephanie Miller (no relation to Dan even though they share the same last name) who was studying counseling psychology. She had followed the renowned Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain and France, walking through the countryside for one year and living off the land during a journey of healing after caring for her father who had brain cancer and passed away.

Stephanie was the ideal co-organizer. Since graduating, Stephanie has helped Dan and an ever-growing tribe of volunteers lead cancer survivors and caretakers on day hikes, snowshoeing hikes, and walks in the park in Boulder and all over Colorado. They also offer two-night retreats where Live by Living groups hike to 10th Mountain Division Huts, and sleep in these very same mountain cabins set in the majestic back country where Julie hiked and slept. They also offer three-night retreats at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park.

Retreat volunteer and RE/MAX of Boulder Realtor Laurie Kaufman remarks,”While volunteering on a retreat in Estes Park, I was amazed by the thought and care that Live by Living and Stephanie Miller put towards organizing the outing. Live by Living ensures that all of the cancer survivors and their caregivers who are participating on the retreats have a fabulous experience and that their individual needs are met. My hope for Live by Living is that more people learn about the organization and the services they provide. There is nothing more healing than hiking in the fresh mountain air of Colorado. I applaud Live by Living for understanding this notion and providing the opportunity for cancer survivors to have a stress-free weekend in the Colorado Rockies.”

Photo of Laurie Kaufman (left) with Stephanie Miller (right) getting ready to film a video podcast about Live by Living

This year, the organization, based out of Lakewood, Colorado with chapters in Colorado Springs, Durango, Grand Junction, and Nothern Colorado, has hosted over 100 day hikes and 10 retreats with participants from across Colorado. There are even participants from other states who have flown in join the retreats. Stephanie says they hope to increase the number of hikes and retreats with the help of additional volunteers. Eventually, Live by Living would like to expand nationally.

A wonderful benefit of the hikes and retreats is that they are free of charge, eliminating worries about cost for the participants, which is made possible by generous donors and volunteers.

“Getting outdoors, enjoying nature, and being physically active is mentally, spiritually, and physically uplifting and restorative,” Stephanie says.

If you would like to contribute to this extraordinary cause, you can purchase tickets for their 2017 fundraising gala being held on Thursday, November 2 at Lime American Cantina in Denver. This moving and exhilarating evening will feature food, drinks, participant testimonials, and a silent auction. Tickets are $75 and the night begins at 5:00 p.m. Don’t miss George Karl (former Denver Nugget’s coach) who will be there to show his support!

If you cannot make the gala but would still like to support the cause, you can mail a check to Live by Living or donate via PayPal at http://livebyliving.org/donate/.

Learn about Live by Living at http://livebyliving.org/ and see their incredible photos on their Facebook page.