Sunday, May 29, 2011

First Descents a-go-go

Packing this electric blue suitcase has meant, all but one time (when I packed it almost precisely one decade ago to tour Europe), that I am soon to board a plane to hell. That my destination holds pain, sickness, fear and uncertainty. I remember vividly hauling it down the steps and out of my home that hot, sticky morning last August when Phil and I left for Houston. It is high time, I believe, to create some new memories.  Let's get moving.

After weeks of meticulously hunting down the necessary items to pack (Scree Pants anyone?) and several hours organizing and labeling my three (yes, THREE one gallon size- see the orange backpack? 80% of the space in that bag is occupied by pill bottles) bags of medications, finally tonight I feel excited. A touch nervous (mostly about not screwing up and getting on the wrong flight and ending up in Siberia), yes, but overwhelmingly excited. A happy excited, like a kid feels before a field trip. This is an uncomfortable feeling for me, as though my mind and body have to remember how to feel something other than dread and anxiety. It's so, so strange. I know this feeling, but it's been so long that it feels new again. Truth is, I'm allowed (read: must allow myself) to feel happy now. I'm allowed to enjoy my life, this beautiful life. And I'm going to do my fucking hardest to savor every moment.

I will be departing for Estes Park, CO bright and early tomorrow (Sunday) morning to spend six days pushing my limits, connecting with other patients and survivors, facing some very intense fears and breaking through (well, maybe just cracking the wall) to the other side of the hell I've been living for two and a half years (been chillin' in the ninth circle for the past nine months or so). Oh yeah, and being filmed doing all of it (as if there weren't enough to stress about). We will be climbing, rock climbing in fact, repelling, hiking and having a jolly good time being alive. It is my hope that after this adventure I will start to feel like a survivor. Though, you know what? If I don't, even if I just feel pride in the achievement of flying by myself for the first time in my life, I will have accomplished something.

Before cancer, the B.C. me (ha, interesting how that works) was a chicken. Insecure, doubtful of the strength of this body, uncertain of the fortitude of my spirit, fearful of being unable to connect with others, afraid of embarassment. Hell, this After Cancer me still feels all of those things BUT this is the first time in my entire life where I've taken these things by the balls and held on tight. Taken control and taken a leap holding on to them. This trip with this amazing organization may just be my first step out of those cycles.

My hope, aside from my own physical and emotional goals, is that I experience a sense of community in the Young Adult Cancer Community. I've not met many of us, though there are far too many out there (some of you read this blog- holla!). Those that I have had the honor of knowing I hold dear. Like some sort of warped fraternal bond, I would expect that the group I am about to be immersed in will be no different.

Though it seems as though I have a great number of expectations for this experience, and I do, these expectations really fall on me. I have the expectation of myself that I will drop into this experience and extract as much as possible from it.

Some things it may be helpful for me to come clean about to put my nerves in perspective. Please don't laugh, judge away, just don't laugh;) :

  • Mountains make me uncomfortable. There is probably some deep psychological reason for this but, nonetheless, I am totally bugged out by them (something about isolation maybe). During my time in the Alps (a decade ago) I was unsettled the whole time.
  • I have never flown alone anywhere. 
  • While doing this on my own is extremely important to doing this deep, personal work, I really wish Phil were coming along. I anticipate missing him terribly. We've been separated too much this past year...
  • This is the first time that I am doing anything (by choice) that I know NOTHING, nada, zilch about (WTF is a carabiner anyway?) and have never even seen done in person.
  • This is the first time that I will be with a group of people, for an extended amount of time, where I know not a soul. Time to make new friends :)!
  • After looking at the pictures on First Descents Facebook page of past camps, I am thoroughly convinced that I am so not cool enough to be doing this.
 Because we'll be up in the clouds, and we all know what that does to WiFi and cell phone reception, I will not be updating until I return.  Instead, and this is something I'm really excited about doing, I'll be keeping a written and photo journal. Hey, it will even been on film (cue nervous laughter).

Thank you to my dear husband, family and friends for supporting me in this adventure and, of course to First Descents for providing this amazing opportunity.

Much love, dear friends (especially you, Sarah D.)


  1. I am sooo excited that you are doing this!!! OMG, I wish I was going with you, that's how excited I am for you!!!

    Definitely time to make new memories with your blue suitcase. So, how did this fun idea come about anyway? So interesting, so NOT a chicken - you are brave and this is going to empower you in some way that we don't even know yet.

    You are a survivor and will continue to be for a long time. You don't need to feel it, you just need to LIVE IT :)

    I am very very excited to read all about it when you get back.

    Bon Voyage,


  2. Have a wonderful time - I know you will love it! Can't wait to read your update when you return home. You are such an inspiration to all of us to open ourselves up to any life's scary adventures that may come our way. xoxo CAL

  3. SO SO SO very excited for you. Cannot wait to hear / read / see all about it when you return. And you are def cool enough.