So, I’m back from my trip to North Carolina with First Descents. There is so much to report on…You might want to sit down, because this could take a while to read. But, I’m going to do this in 2 posts.
First off, I really love First Descents and their mission. Long story short – they give young cancer patients/survivors the opportunity to challenge ourselves and do something adventurous (and of course, its nice that the experience is free). For me, this was a week of learning how to white water kayak. Despite growing up at the “beach” and being a fish in my younger years, I have found myself becoming increasingly fearful of the water as I get older. I tend to give Bri a death grip if we’re ever in the ocean together.
So, this trip really gave me the opportunity to challenge myself to overcome a small fear, learn something new and do it in the company of other cancer survivors. There were a total of 12 program participants. 1/3 of us were breast cancer survivors and the others had all different types of cancer: melanoma, thyroid, Hodgkin’s/non-Hodgkin’s, Leukemia, testicular, cervical, and ovarian. We also had 2 program directors with us who worked for First Descents, 2 volunteers, 1 volunteer doctor (actually an oncologist) and 2 personal chefs. Yup, that’s right – no cooking for me all week. And we ate healthy, organic, DELICIOUS home-made (non-processed) food all week-long!
Aside from learning the mechanics of kayaking and tackling rapids, this trip also presented me with some other challenges. For the first few days, there was non-stop talk about cancer. My goal for this trip was not only to learn how to kayak, but to put the past year behind me. I already spent A LOT of time talking about it. And for the most part, I feel like I have moved on. I think other participants were just at a different stage of the moving on process and I wasn’t mentally or emotionally prepared for that. I understand that other trip participants may have needed to talk some more and use the trip as group therapy, but that really left me feeling uncomfortable a lot of the time. In fact, I may have cried myself to sleep a night or two and called Brian in tears one afternoon. After talking with some of the other breast cancer survivors, I even found myself questioning some of the decisions I had made regarding my treatment. I really had to force myself to take a step back and reassure myself that I made the best decisions for ME given the particular characteristics of my cancer.
Other cancer survivors are also living in fear about reoccurrence. I don’t know how I did it, but somehow after I finished all of my treatments I also convinced myself that I’m done having cancer. I have managed to not think about a reoccurrence or be scared of it. Again, on this trip I found myself surrounded by talk of reoccurrence and this put a horrible knot in my stomach.
I think all of the cancer talk really caused me to be a little more quiet and reserved on this trip. I did not actively participate in cancer talk. I talked about some of the basics initially (diagnosis, treatment regime, certain stats, etc), but left it at that. Despite all of this, I had an awesome time and I met some amazing brave people.