In March of this year, First Descents lost one of its treasured alum. We all know the magic that happens at camp; what we don’t always see or know is what it’s like for each of us when we return home to not only our “real lives,” but to our cancer fights. Casey “Rocky” Beaupre was a vibrant young woman who will be deeply missed by her FD family. Here, her mother, Rosemary Beaupre, pays tribute to her daughter and shares, with stark eloquence, how much First Descents enriched Casey’s life.
I am Rosemary Beaupre, Casey Beaupre’s mom. Casey (or Rocky) attended FD last year for the first time, participating in a kayaking trip to Idaho. Casey had leukemia. She was diagnosed at age 16 and lived with cancer for over three years. Casey died on March 10. When I say lived with cancer I mean it wholeheartedly. Casey never let her treatments or fatigue or physical limitations get in the way of living big. The day Casey left for the First Descents camp she was apprehensive. She wondered if this would be right for her, if she would she fit in, and if it was even worth doing. In true Casey style she forged ahead and decided to go for it.
We talked a lot about her experience when she got back home to Connecticut and the first thing she said was “I didn’t know how much I needed to be with other people who get it.” By the second day in Idaho she said that everyone in her group had the same revelation. She said the whole group spoke about feeling as if something was missing in their lives, something they couldn’t explain. At FD, sitting around a campfire and talking, it became obvious that what they needed was each other. Casey was the baby of the group at 19 and she loved it. She talked about a guy a little older than she was whose parents were helping out with cooking. He was transformed by FD, finally comfortable in his own skin and with who he was. There was a couple who both struggled with cancer and she was blown away by their courage. A firefighter who was there helping out gave her a treasured Miami Dade Fire Department t-shirt. She told all kinds of stories about every single person she met. On the last night she was touched in a way that rarely happens in our lives and she felt at peace with herself and her life. At the ceremony they created that night, under a star filled Idaho sky, they honored themselves, and each other, and all those we have lost. I am proud that this year they will think of her.
Casey was a risk taker. She was vivacious and funny and smart. She was beautiful. But Casey was a regular kid in so many ways. She took advantage of every opportunity to have fun, even when it wasn’t the best idea. Then Casey was diagnosed with cancer and gradually she was transformed. She started to understand the world and her place in it with wisdom unusual for her young age. She realized the importance of in living in the present moment. That is easy to say but not so easy to do for any of us, much less a young adult with cancer. She was always extremely tolerant but she became more than that, she became fully accepting. There was nothing she loved more than making us laugh. We learned so much from her about courage and love and what really matters.
Quite honestly kayaking was not the best part of the FD experience for Casey although it was challenging and exciting. The best part for her was the people, the fellow survivors, the people who understood her and the people she understood. At FD she felt lifted up, she felt protected by, and connected to, each special person she met that week. Casey came home with a big beautiful smile on her face and a renewed sense of purpose.
While we were in the hospital for a long stay Casey started working on a little book of inspiration. The topics include the power of laughter, the importance of relaxation, her admiration for other cancer kids, her delight in baldness, and the value of family and friends. The title of the book is Be in Love with Your Life. If you would like a copy of the book for yourself or for a friend please send I an e-mail to me at [email protected]. Include your address and I’ll send it to you. I know Casey would love to have you read it.