First Descents is a life changing experience


Prior to my cancer diagnosis, I considered myself a pretty happy person. I always saw the good in people or situations,  and tried to laugh as much as possible. But, I did a few things that didn’t make me a happy person. I would stress and over-react about little things. Like a lot. Blow them up and make them into catastrophic things that they weren’t or would never be. Sometimes I would let fear of failure stop me from doing things that I wanted to try. I also didn’t really push my limits or my boundaries. I just let my life ride and play out as it was without really challenging myself.

picture courtesy of Kelsey Boyte

picture courtesy of Kelsey Boyte

And then I got cancer.

And my life changed.

While I was going through treatments I tried to focus on what I needed to do on a given day. I didn’t stress about little things or worrying about my upcoming mastectomy while going through chemotherapy, because that wouldn’t do me any good. I focused on making each and everyday special because I didn’t know what my prognosis was or how long I will have on this earth. But most of all, I wasn’t to make my interactions special with people especially my kids.

I know it sounds crazy that while I was so sick, I was becoming a happier person. But it is true. It in depths of pain, despair, and my sadness, I became happier.

Having cancer reminded me to find beauty in everything that I was doing. It made me stop and smell the roses, literally. It showed me that there is no point in wasting energy turning little mole hills into mountains. I enjoy every day no matter how stressful it will be because I’m just so darn happy to be alive.

As happy as I was during my cancer treatments, and after I was still living my life as-status-quo. I wasn’t really pushing my boundaries or testing myself in other ways that I have been tested for a really long time. And then last month, I went on a life changing trip for young adults with cancer called First Descents. I eagerly signed up for a surfing trip in North Carolina. My expectations were set quite low to be honest. I hoped to surf , maybe make a friend or two and have a relaxing week.

picture courtesy of Kelsey Boyte

picture courtesy of Kelsey Boyte

The first day in the ocean was wild. The waves were massive and I kept getting pummeled. Over and over again. It would take me what felt like forever to paddle out to the point to meet the instructors, and wave after wave I was smashed in the body and face. But you know what? I kept getting back up and doing it over, and over, again. Yes, I finally did get up but my ratio to getting up and getting pummeled was quite low and I’m so proud of that.

While I was out in the water, I realized that surfing was a metaphor for everything I had gone through with my experience with breast cancer. The ocean is huge just like all the cancers. The waves are like the treatments and medications you will take continually knocking you down, and trying to exhaust you. But you have the choice and the power inside of you to fight against in and paddle out into the ocean and go head first into the waves just like how you deal with cancer. And then I saw the dolphins. About 20 feet away from me. That was the beauty that I found within cancer. I was totally mesmerized by them and loved watching them. They symbolized the family, friends and acquaintances who out of the goodness of their hearts helped out when my family needed it the most.

picture courtesy of Kelsey Boyte

picture courtesy of Kelsey Boyte

The people I met on the trip were amazing. When I thought I would only meet one or two awesome people, I was so lucky to meet 13 others amazing people who have each had their own unique experience with cancer. There is something to be said when supporting yourself and being around people who just get you. Money, relationships, funny stuff people say to you when you have cancer, they just get it. We supported each other out in the ocean, on the beach, in the house where we were staying and now that we are all over North America, in a What’s App chat group.

I have said many times that First Descents was life changing. It was therapy without a therapist for my mind, body and soul. I am a very blessed person who has a very large and supportive friend and family network, but I truly believe that it wasn’t until this trip that I realized that I needed these 13 beautiful souls in my life. I’m so happy to know each and every one of them.

Since my cancer diagnosis I have been scared about the future and to make plans, but I am finally once again excited about the future and making plans. Going on First Descents made me see that even though I was happy person, pushing my boundaries, and taking risks made feel alive! I’m so happy to be alive! 

If you know a young adult who has had cancer please send them the information on this amazing organization.

Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post. I was told about First Descents when I was diagnosed with cancer and signed up. I believe that every young adult with cancer needs to go on this trip.

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