Welcome To First Descents or My Week At Summer Camp


So this part sucks. I can’t find a pen and have to type! 4 women in a tiny cabin, no bath, all with varying thermal temps and everyone but me trying to sleep. I want to write. Damn! Where’s that pen?
The light tapping of keys sounds more like footsteps in this dark silence. I’m exhausted yet inspired to write. I came on FD so I could have just one time in my life where a trip was for me- not work, not family- and just languish in it. But then there’s the part of me that can’t help but document this experience. I’ll say it’s for Sage. So one day she’ll understand why I left her alone with Ryan for a week while I went whitewater kayaking in Montana.

A year ago today, I was sitting on the roof of Ryan’s car, watching the Park City fireworks and wondering what having cancer means to me. At that time I had no idea what stage I was, what my treatment would be, whether I would see my daughter grow up. I was numb. I watched the lights in the sky and blanked out. I told myself not to think about it because there was nothing I could do over the holiday. On July 5, however, the wheels burned rubber. Like a leopard focused on his prey, I pounced on this cancer thing. I stopped contemplating a future (or better stressing about one) to deal with the here and now. The summer swirled down the drain- flushed like bad poopy as Sage would say.

One year later, I’m here, I’m strong, I’m ‘surviving’ and I’m about to punish myself in freezing waters for five straight days in the woods. First Descents out of Boulder, Colo., is a non-profit org that puts on something like 15 adventure camps a year for cancer survivors. Idaho, Jackson, Washington, Colorado, Montana, Utah. Rugged places if you’re up for a challenge.

My only luxury is Internet. We have to walk 5 minutes to the showers and toilets. There’s no running water nearby and no TV. It reminds me of my eight grade retreat to Yosemite.

Just yesterday I was bombarded by high-tech gadgetry. I had an MRI yesterday. The experience sucked. That’s about right. Took two nurses, several shrieks and three tries to get the IV in. An hour and 40 minutes later, both boobs were scanned and I was dressed and out the revolving door. I won’t have the results until Tuesday or Wednesday; I see my doctor a week after that. Will I be back at square one, don’t pass GO, Don’t collect $200 or will I be able to relax and feel like I’ve poked my head out of the woods? In other words, will I have to repeat last summer or not?

In a way, this trip is my last week before the news. Like a deathrow inmate getting his last meal….Or it’s a celebration of the new – I can’t say ‘me’ because I’m the same me only a little less cocky and a lot less immortal- so I’ll say it will be my homecoming. My new year; my Cancerversary. Please let it be this and not the former! All of us here – at this First Descents Camp – have some form of cancer. No one talks about cancer here. Not yet anyway. Not on our first day. Maybe we never will. This is emotional therapy by way of the physical. We get to kick our butts on the river, feel strong and come home with skills. We don’t need to deal with cancer this week. We have better things to do.

One year ago today, I wondered how my life would look. Today, I’m still wondering. Tomorrow, however, I’ll be stuffed into a plastic torpedo, forced to roll it over and swim in water only penguins appreciate. I won’t have time to think about the good or the bad of my test results. I’ll only have time to “be”.

You don’t get those kinds of opportunities that often, Sage. So I’ll understand if you choose to do something completely selfish and extreme when you’re older. Do everything you can to squeeze life by the balls and make it scream in your face. You scream back, dammit! And for just that moment feel like you can control your fate.


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