My husband and I were able to receive scholarships to attend FD's first couples retreat. Since I went through cancer when our relationship was still in the very early stages (he was just my boyfriend) it was very helpful and empowering to be around other couples with the same issues we struggled with. I did great on the white water kayaking. It was a great bonding experience for me and my husband. I think it was a great way not only to boost my self confidence but to reassure him that I was ok. FD cooked all homemade meals family style while we were there. There were so many WONDERFUL volunteers with the organization and this trip. We had an ER doctor that came down the river with us on his day off, the kayak enthusiasts who enlisted their friends to loan their boats for the week, etc.
I haven't felt so alive in a long time!! You start to think the world actually only consists of what you're experiencing, like surgeries or uncertainty or loss... but then you taste mountain air and spider up a rock face and remember THERE IS SO MUCH MORE LIFE TO BE LIVED.
I was a participant in one of the FD kayaking programs last summer. It changed my life. I'll never forget the connections I made with other survivors and one day I hope to be able to give back to this great organization that has given me so much!
Cancer taught me about death. First Descents taught me how to live. Most valuable week of my life. I hope many others will be able to attend and benefit as I did.
This program is amazing. As a benefactor of a wonderful week kayaking in Montana near Glacier National Park, I can highly recommend this program. A huge part of what makes it so great is the amazing volunteer staff. I know that this organization spends it's money wisely on providing wonderful experiences for cancer survivors. As someone said, "This is a cancer camp that's not about cancer." It's about amazing experiences, challenging yourself to do something difficult and sometimes scary, and making great friends along the way.
Magical. Energizing. Peaceful. Challenging. Loving. First Descents ranks up there as one of my all-time favorite experiences. The moment I stepped off the plane and met my fellow FDers, it felt like a family. I was amazed at the instant trust each one of the campers had in the volunteers and counselors. FD gives you an opportunity to be out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself in the midst of the most beautiful spots in the country. Because of my experience with First Descents, I even more grateful for my second chance at life.
I took my First Descent in June 2008, and it was an experience that would forever change my life. In August 2004, at 32 years of age, my carefree world as I knew it was turned upside down when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. For the next 7 months, I battled this disease with every ounce of strength I had. I easily coasted through my treatments and surgeries never imagining that the period following my cancer treatment would be so difficult. For months afterwards, I struggled to find my “new normal”. I felt that I had missed out on so much as I watched my friends around me move up in their careers, get married, and have children. I often felt I had no one to turn to, no person who would understand how I really felt. And then there was the constant fear of mortality... In June 2008, I boarded a plane to a First Descents camp in Montana with many reservations. To my surprise, my reluctant decision to attend was one of the the best decisions I ever made! For the first time since I was diagnosed, I did not feel different or pitied. I was challenged to do things that I thought I could never do. I learned the true beauty of humankind through the volunteers I met. I took a little piece from each camper that to this day continues to inspire me. Most importantly, I learned to love myself again. I returned home happy, empowered, and part of a whole new family. Thanks in grand part to First Descents, I was finally able to close my "cancer" chapter. No more pity parties for me!! I have since completed a half-marathon, learned how to snow ski, continued my travels, and returned to the "social scene". My wonderful medical team in Miami may have cured me physically, but First Descents mended my battered heart and soul.
First Descents was amazing experience. I was able to conquer my fears, meet new people, and do things I never thought was possible. It allowed me to focus on things other than my cancer. But, it also allowed me to joke about cancer with people who understood where I was coming from. I believe that FD is one of the best things that I have ever done. I am lucky to have been able to participate in such a great program.
First Descents has a unique offering of adventure which bring together young adults. Together we face our fears and take on bigger challenges each day. Without the forces walls of a therapy room or hospital, the conversations naturally occur. The friendships are life-long and the new found confidence is amazing. First Descents is the best thing to come from my cancer experience. FD offers well structured programs, with highly qualified staff. The amount of care put into our safety is amazing. Thank you FD!!!
It was amazing to see what happened when two of my worlds collided. The experience was surreal as I met people whose passion for nature was shared with people who truly understand the need to live for the moment. I saw one group inspired because the other group showed them that there was nothing wrong with living life for the moment. I saw the other group inspired by being shown how. It was the first time in my life I was able to be with survivors, face to face, in a place that encouraged deep conversation.