FD’s Leadville 100 Team Reports

FD’s Leadville 100 Team Reports

On August 9th, 25 dedicated riders will represent First Descents (FD) in the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race. These brave individuals have taken the longest running Team FD challenge, and I’m fairly certain I speak for the majority when I say that we are excited to bring it to a close in just under two weeks!

For me, this is by far the greatest endurance challenge of my life. And while it has been on my bucket list for years, it became apparent this was the year when interviewing for my new role as Executive Director at FD. No ifs, ands, or buts about it – yup, the Team FD LT100 MTB challenge was an “unofficial” requirement with accepting the position!

Despite the all-consuming nature of this endeavor, it is a great personal honor to represent Team FD in the LT100. Sound a little crazy? I’ll elaborate: Our Board Chairman, Brent Goldstein, outlined the LT100’s history, and its significance to FD, in his July 15 blog post. In short, it all began in 2007 when Allan Goldberg, FD’s executive director at the time, challenged Brent to get in shape for this grueling event. Brent accepted the challenge and never looked back; Brent has since inspired many others to take on this noble effort.

It was Allan who originally introduced me to First Descents many years ago. Hearing Allan describe what he referred to as the “FD Magic” left me feeling incredibly inspired. Allan was a young adult survivor; unfortunately, like my brother Colin, Allan ran out of time in search of life-saving therapies.

For me, this challenge is about Allan, Colin and the 70,000+ young adults (YAs) diagnosed with cancer each year. In a small way, training for and completing the LT100 represents the many challenges YAs face when diagnosed with cancer… an exhausting uphill battle… peaks and valleys along the way… the inherent faith to persevere… all with the necessary support from friends and family. I have no idea how I’ll feel at the finish, but I know I’ll get there with so many caring friends in my corner.

My goal this summer was to climb over 70,000ft in total elevation in preparation for the LT100. As of July 27th, I’ve ridden 1,068 miles and climbed 70,959ft. With the team rapidly closing in on race day, we hope you will find it in your heart to support this inspiring crew of riders, all who’ve sacrificed so much to participate in this “sufferfest” in support of FD and those we serve.

Click here to see our team’s progress and to make a gift in support of our overall goal!

In closing, I would like to extend a very special thanks to our friends at the Leadville Race Series for this deeply meaningful partnership, and Primal Wear for generously sponsoring the team, i.e., outfitting this year’s riders with amazing top of the line kits! Leadville, Primal – quite simply, YOU ROCK!!!

#OutLivingIt – Ryan O’Donoghue (aka, Wolf)

 

Ryan Video

 

FIGHTER RESOURCES

FIGHTER resources

Some of you may or may not know that www.FirstDescents.org has a great page with a lot of incredible resources for YA’s. Since the YA demographic is the most underserved cancer population we felt it very important to share these resources so if you are, or if you know someone fighting cancer, you have all of the best resources right at your fingertips!

BCF logo for websiteThe Breast Cancer Fundraiser-
First Descents was lucky enough to attend a fundraising event for this charity over the summer. The BCF helps to preserve the dignity of breast cancer patients and their loved ones by supporting their unmet needs through funding value added services such as massage therapy, acupuncture, fitness classes, etc. Check them out at http://www.thebreastcancerfundraiser.org/

 

 

AGCAGC Scholarships-
Fertility is one of the top issues amongst YA fighters and survivors. This  amazing nonprofit group is committed to providing both advocacy and scholarships for those struggling with infertility in the United States. Read more about their great work at www.agcscholarships.org

 

 

ulman-321x231The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults-
We were so lucky to recently receive a visit from an amazing group of college students riding across the United States (Baltimore to Portland) to support this foundation. www.4kforcancer.org. A leading voice in the young adult cancer movement, The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults works at a grassroots level to support, educate, connect, and empower young adult cancer survivors. Read more about their efforts at www.ulmanfund.org

 

 

livestrong-321x231The LIVESTRONG Foundation-
Known for their bright yellow bracelet, this organization is dedicated to finding new ways to raise awareness, increase outreach and facilitate collaboration in an effort to improve the cancer experience. Only to name a few they can provide information for the newly diagnosed, planning medical care, they offer one-on-one support and even after-treatment care. Find them at www.livestrong.org

 

 

imerman-321x231Imerman Angels-
Isolation is one of the first challenges YA’s will face after a diagnosis. It can be difficult to feel a true sense of community or understanding from the people around you, despite your support network’s best efforts. A long time friend of First Descents, Imerman Angels has a very unique program for cancer fighters. Imerman Angels will carefully match a person touched by cancer with someone who has fought and survived the same type of cancer. They refer to this person as a Mentor Angel, which we just love! Check out their great work at www.imermanangels.org

 

 

stupid_cancer-321x231Stupidcancer.org-
We love working with Stupid Cancer and have been a part of their OMG Cancer Summit for two years running. They are a great organization that really understands the mentality of young adult fighters and survivors. They strive to empower young adults affected by cancer through innovative and award-winning programs and services. Check them out at www.stupidcancer.org

 

 

single_jingles-321x231The Testicular Foundation-
This foundation, formerly known as Single Jingles, provides education and support to young men to raise awareness about testicular cancer, the #1 cancer among men ages 15-35. They’ve always got something great going on, check it out! Www.singlejingles.org

 

 

my_lifetime-321x231MyLifeLine.org-
This great organization offers a free, customized website to cancer patients and caregivers to keep their networks up to date on their health and lives. www.mylifeline.org

 

 

 

thrive-logoThrive Through Cancer –
They are helping young adults fight cancer today and live amazing lives tomorrow. Thrive Through Cancer provides direct support to newly diagnosed young adult cancer patients via emotional support, networking and non-medical financial aid for those struggling to make ends meet will they are in treatment. Check them out here thrivethroughcancer.org

 

 

There are many amazing organizations out there doing great work and we love supporting the community around us. You can check out our resources page for more info. We’re all in this fight together; working toward the betterment of life for those fighting cancer. If you have additional resources you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments below.

North Conway, NH Program Report

Team Hardcore represented July 13-19, 2014 in Conway, NH. We couldn’t be MORE proud of this amazing group. They truly represent the love and dedication that we saw in Hardcore herself. Congratulations, Team Hardcore!IMG_8696

 

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FD’s Leadville 100 Team Reports

 5 weeks to go until my 8th Leadville 100 mountain-bike race.  How did I get here?  Well, it started in late 2006 when my oldest and best friend, Allan Goldberg, shared some horrible news of a recurrence of long-dormant cancer and in the same breath challenged me to spend the winter preparing myself to race in the 2007 Leadville 100 mountain bike race in Leadville, CO. My first reaction was to tell him that he was out of his f*%$ing mind. How the hell could I get myself in shape to ride a mountain bike 100+ miles over 14,000 feet of mountain climbing at altitudes reaching 12,600 feet in one day at nearly 40 years old? However, when he reminded me what chemo and radiation was going to be like for him over the next 6 months, I quickly changed my mind and agreed to do it.

 

At the time, Allan was the Executive Director of an incredible cancer organization called First Descents. I loved everything about the mission of First Descents as it combined youth with adventure and the outdoors and, most importantly, a noble purpose . . . to serve a wildly underserved young-adult cancer demographic. Think of it as a cross between Make-A-Wish and Outward Bound for young adults.  Anyway, if I was going to do this asinine race, I wanted to make a mark. So Allan and I created Team First Descents and rounded up several like-minded (or should I say, out-of-our-minded) individuals to not only join me in Leadville, but to use the race as a platform to raise money for First Descents.

 

 Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 9.47.26 AMNeedless to say, 

 

I finished that first 2007 race in 11 hours and 11 minutes and Team First Descents succeeded in raising over $85,000 for First Descents. Immediately thereafter, I was invited to join the First Descents Board of Directors and have served as Chairman of the FD Board since 2009.  Since then, I have also finished Leadville another 6 times with a personal best time of 8:54 (and BIG BUCKLE!!) in 2013. More importantly, Team FD Leadville has raised over $630,000 for FD between 2008 and 2013 and I am confident we can break the $100,000 mark again this summer.

 

So now I’m back happily torturing myself with hill-repeats, intervals, long rides and forced-rest in the hopes of crushing my last year’s best time with an aggressive goal of 8 hours and 30 minutes.  Just this past week, I received my smokin’ new Team FD bike kit (provided by our good friends at Primal Cycling and shown below) and proudly wore it on a timed training ascent to the summit of the Beaver Creek ski resort.  The new “threads” must have given me special inspiration as I made it to the top 5 minutes faster than I’ve ever done it before.  At nearly 47 years old, it is fulfilling and rewarding to be able to participate in a physical activity where there is still room for improvement and age is just a word!

 

-Brent Goldstein, Chairman of the Board for First Descents

 

 

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What to expect your first time whitewater kayaking from fellow FD alum, Roux

Brought to you by fellow cancer survivor, FD alumni, and first time whitewater kayaker, Roux.

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In the boat:
You’ll be wearing a wetsuit, booties, paddling jacket, PFD (personal floatation device), kayak skirt, helmet –> all provided there. [You might know all this if you’ve ever been kayaking. I had not.]

What I suggest wearing underneath –
Either a one-piece swimsuit OR a sports bra & bathing suit bottom — obviously these need to be synthetic and bathing suit material or some other sporty quick drying material. I wore bathing suit bottoms and a sports bra as my bottom layer. Biking shorts would probably work since they’re already tight as long as they are not heavy or cotton or whatever. Cotton is a huge f*ing no-no. Any clothes that aren’t pretty skin tight already (like running shorts or something like that – this was my initial plan that I abandoned) aren’t going to work super great under the wetsuit, which is SUPER TIGHT, as they will just bunch and be annoying. I wore a tight Under Armor shirt over my sports bra and under the wetsuit, which doesn’t have sleeves – it’s like a tank top wetsuit if that makes sense, at least ours were. I wanted something between the wetsuit and my upper body, and this worked great. On colder days, I wore a fleece over my wetsuit and under the paddling jacket. If you don’t have a fleece, the outfitter — hopefully Wet Planet (Hood River, OR outfitter — hearts and butterflies and love)– should have extras. On warmer days, I tossed the fleece and just wore the rash guard under the paddling jacket.

Coldness in the boats –
I was never cold. I was sometimes warm. You’re working really hard out there. The water was cold, but when you’re in the water, you’re usually too pumped with adrenaline to think about being cold. I wouldn’t worry about this as long as you have the layer sitch (above) in place. You can always take off a layer like a fleece or a rash guard at the lunch break on the banks of the river if you get hot.

Sunglasses –
Important for me because of contact glare issues and water splashing in eyeball issues. Buy something that attaches them around your head securely. I got mine at Wal-mart eyeglass shop the night before camp for like $4.

Body Guard –
Some girls had this anti-chafing stuff which might be helpful if you’re into that sort of thing or worried about chafing. I thought this was smart of them, though I don’t think it’s necessary in all cases.

Water bottle –
Don’t forget this! You will be using it every day.

Sunscreen –
Duh. I thought I would need bug spray as I am a mosquito magnet since birth but there were no mosquitoes to speak of. Not sure how it will be where you are or when you go.

Phones/cameras in boats –
I bought a $9.99 disposable waterproof camera at CVS and used it 1 day but otherwise never brought a phone or camera on the water. It’s obviously discouraged as you know as they don’t want you staring at your phone all day and kayaks turn over a lot, natch. I did bring my phone in my van bag to snap a few pics before & after the river – kayaks are f*ing pretty colors and the scenery was gorgeous – but this isn’t really necessary if you have a photog there like we had Scooter. I think that bringing anything of value in your boat is real dumb.

Helpful stuff to have in the van every day
A lightweight backpack or other tote-type bag to stash the clothes you change out of and back into. The more quick-dry-type stuff you can bring for this the better. Usually I wore like camping pants and a t-shirt and fleece or windbreaker in the van in the morning when it was a bit chilly, with Tevas + smartwool socks. After, since every day was sunny and awesome, I would change into running shorts and a t-shirt for the ride home and Tevas without socks. For post-river, bring something that can be gross and dry fast as you will be gross from the river. I always stashed wet wipes in my bag because I liked to wipe my feet off from the booties before putting my shoes on but this was deemed a bit overboard by many of my fellow campers. There’s lots of getting naked in and around the vans so just be prepped for that. I stopped caring after day one.

Do you need a cute swimsuit as you are under the impression as I was {HA HA} that sometimes you’ll just be sunning and kicking it riverside in your cute swimsuit?
Negative, ghostrider.

Lodge clothes
Whatever you’re comfy in. People wore everything you can imagine. I mostly wore yoga pants. If you are worried about being cold, bringing something cozy to wear around campfire is key as that will be the coldest part of your day, most likely. I brought fingerless gloves, a cozy winter pom pom hat, etc. Some people dragged blankets out with them. I was perfectly cozy as long as my head, feet, and hands were warm. Then again, some people stayed in shorts and bare feet for campfire. I guess it just depends on how you are most comfy.

Helpful to have
Woolite — I packed little travel packets of this to rinse out my bathing suit bottoms and sports bra from the river each afternoon in the sink and then just hung them dry. I’m sure there will be a washing machine but this was easiest for me. Some people might not have bothered with this, but since I got body organs pulled out not that long ago, I was trying to avoid that “not so fresh feeling.” Love you, Woolite.

Travel clothesline –
I hung this up in our room and liked having it close-by to hang things over. Wash it in hot water before you go or it might stain your clothes yellow.

You’re going to have a GREAT time!

**For any further questions about what you should/should not be bringing on your adventure with First Descents, our amazing programs team is here to help! Email [email protected] They have the answers.

FD1 Rock Climbing in Estes Park, CO

It is difficult to recap what goes on and what comes out of a weeklong FD program. It’s a week of feeling exhilarated when you stick that hold you didn’t think you could reach; feeling amazed when you look down from the top of a climb that looked too high to grasp when you were standing on the ground; and feeling empowered when you take a courageous fall and discover that you still have it in you to keep climbing.

So, to recap the feeling? In a word? Breathtaking. The views, the people, the heights, the laughter, the delicious and nourishing food, the trying not to make a sound so the person sitting next to you doesn’t discover that you are the Mafia. Not only do these experiences take your breath away, they make you want to hold your breath so that perhaps magically time will pause and the week will last just a moment longer.

But when you’re up on that rock looking for your next move, and your legs are quivering and the heights are daunting – the one thing that grounds you is a deep breath. So you inhale, you remember that the person on the ground is there to catch you, and you reach for the next hold.  And what happens next? Maybe you stick it or maybe you fall, but no matter what, you let out a deep exhale because you feel more alive than ever before. And that pretty much sums up the experience on a whole – it’s a week of feeling more alive than you knew you could.

So instead of holding our breath to suspend time, we take in a deep inhale to experience the moment more fully, to feel more alive as we stand on top of the world and look out at how far we’ve come and realize how much vigor we have in us to keep going. We fill our lungs with life and energy so that we can keep seeking out this kind of adventure and exhilaration.

In the end, all I can say is thank goodness for this little string tied around my wrist that will always remind me to breathe and keep going. Thank you FD for giving this group a week of laughter, companionship, clarity, fresh air, and adventure. We will carry it with us wherever we go.

 

– Ramsay “Firefly” Pierce

 

 

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The Amazing Health Benefits of Turmeric

turmericMost of us by now have at least heard of Turmeric and that it has some pretty amazing health benefits.  The orange-colored spice that’s part of the ginger family, is often a part of amazingly delicious Indian and other Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian dishes and has been a staple their cooking for thousands of years. Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines use turmeric to clear infections and inflammations on the inside and outside of the body. But beyond the holistic health community, Western medical practitioners have only recently come on board in recognizing the benefits of turmeric.

Turmeric has been shown to be a powerful antioxidant, a potent anti-inflammatory and anti-septic, and a serious cancer blocker. It can be taken as a supplement for joint pain and can be added to food in varying ways.  It can be added to any dishes you cook (curries, soups, rice dishes, etc), but best to add when almost finished cooking in order to keep it closest to it’s raw state for maximal nutrition benefits. Or simply sprinkle it on raw to vegetables, eggs, tuna salad, smoothies and dressings.

Turmeric is pleasantly inexpensive, mild in taste, and benefits the entire body.  Adding it to your body is one of the best things you can do for long term health!

To learn more about this amazing spice, here are a few links to some great articles covering more details of it’s enormous benefits.

Team First Descents

At First Descents, we see challenge not as an obstacle, but as a source of empowerment, growth and inspiration. For this reason, we choose challenge! Whether it’s learning how to cook something new or participating in your first triathlon, the thrill of adventuring into the unknown is vital – vital to our emotional health, physical restoration and spiritual healing. We recognize that although we did not choose cancer, we can choose to OutLive It, and the style and intensity by which we do so lies completely in our power.

For those of you who are not familiar, Team First Descents is our way of embracing challenge to empower ourselves and others. TeamFD is an innovative, peer-to-peer fundraising platform that keeps the energy and spirit of FD alive by providing an opportunity for anyone out there to help further the First Descents mission by raising money to send more young adults affected by cancer on an FD program.  The only thing you need to join TeamFD is a spirit of adventure, creativity, and passion.

This year so far, we’ve had over 45 teams and 170 individuals join us to seek out challenge! We are pushing our limits through infinite journeys of emotional, creative, and experimental design. Some of our favorite challenges taken on this year by Team FD participants range from getting skydive-certified to swimming in shark tanks to passing around a necklace between friends as a reminder to always be present and push oneself. There are hundreds of FD family members out there embracing the camaraderie of Team First Descents.

Today, we would like to acknowledge this year’s #OutLivingIt Award recipient, Smoxy, who passed away last year, and whose spirit and legacy live on at FD. Smoxy’s mother, Momma Pearl, has created a Team FD page where you can honor and support Smoxy’s legacy – “Our goal is to sponsor one camper at a time, a testimony to the spirit that Smoxy embraced.”

Last month, the  TD Five Boro Bike Tour Team FD riders raised $33,826 which is enough to fund an entire weeklong FD1 program! The TD Bike Tour takes riders through all five boroughs of New York, totaling 40 miles of car-free biking! Congratulations to our Team FD riders on all of your amazing efforts and hard work!

The Sin City Mudders FD team, comprised of participants from a 2013 Jackson Hole FD program, did a Tough Mudder together in memory of fellow camp participant, Juice. Along the way, they raised $11,346, and are still going! Awesome job Sin City Mudders!

Team Hardcore, another team banded around the impact of an FD alum’s spirit, has so far raised $15,072 in 2014! This total is in addition to the $50,000 they raised last year – and they show no sign of stopping! Two of their team members are running in Bay to Breakers this weekend with our very own Julie “Fruit Boots” Kinamore! To support FD and Team Hardcore’s fundraising, check out Sevenly’s Cancer Cause Collection – buy a t-shirt and they will donate to First Descents!

Our Leadville 100 MTB team has managed to raise $21,436 in the midst of training for this 100-mile unforgiving bike race through the mountainous terrain of Leadville, CO. We need volunteers for the day of the race to support, encourage, and congratulate these courageous cyclists!

Email [email protected] if you’re interested in volunteering! Not only teams, but also individuals have proven that these awe-inspiring goals can be achieved with a little perseverance and a whole lot of spunk! Our very own alum, Galaxy Girl, has raised $3,740 so far in support of her challenge to walk a 5k in a different city every month! Keep it up Galaxy Girl! All together, in 2014 Team FD participants, teams, bicyclists, artists, adventurers and explorers alike have so far raised a total of $215,000, and we’re not even halfway through!

Stay tuned for more Team FD highlights and stories in the upcoming months! Interested in joining in on the fun? ANYONE CAN sign up and create their own personal challenge! Or join one of our core events! The possibilities are endless, and we are stoked to have you be a part of the FD TEAM!

CHALLENGE ON!

Team First Descents

[email protected]

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The Aptman Family rides the TD Five Boro Bike Tour for the FOURTH year in a row!

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Sin City Mudders in honor and memory of JUICE

The Cosmic Secret to Bliss, by Nugget

nugget blog 2In the spring of 2011, I walked out of the Denver airport and into an unmarked white van full of strangers. It was a beautiful day. The skies were clear, and I could see mountains – real mountains – in the distance. They looked even better than they do on Coors Light cans. The driver of the van introduced himself as ‘Patch.’ He had that exuberant, wild-yet-salt-of-the-Earth look to him – the kind that guys get when they spend their lives outdoors. Nothing like I’d seen in my past four years in college at a preppy East Coast school.

He leaned over to me. “Are you nervous?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t worry, getting on the plane to come here was the hardest part.”

I’d like to see your hardest pa—oh, shut up, brain.

We drove for maybe an hour. We stopped once at a gas station. We probably listened to music. Then, we arrived at an excessively wood-paneled lodge on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, and my life changed.

I wasn’t even technically supposed to be there. I’d heard of First Descents at a recent visit to a post-cancer clinic. They offered rock climbing and whitewater kayaking camps for young adult survivors – those diagnosed between ages 15 and 39. My diagnosis came a few months before my sixth birthday. Still, I couldn’t stop looking at the FD flyer after the nurse handed it to me. A phone call, a recommendation from my clinic, and a last semester of college later, I was on my way to Colorado.

I figured it was worth a try. I might not exactly fit in at camp, but I was used to that. Cancer put my life into pretty harsh perspective at a young age. Normal social constructs always seemed a bit pointless and I wasn’t good at adhering to them anyways. I never saw any reason to limit myself to a normal human serving size of waffles. I used to sit in the Art Institute because I liked looking at people while they looked at art. I thought the musical episode of Buffy was an incredible hour of television. I synchronized swam competitively. I was always a little weird.

I didn’t even fit into the cancer world. I’d never associated myself with the term ‘survivor.’ Cancer was a blemish, an imperfection. It was the first thing that made me weird. But the older I got, the harder it was to ignore. The seemingly endless side effects, the follow-up appointments, and the scars were inescapable. I felt trapped; frozen. And not in a heartwarming Disney princess kind of way. I dealt with the resulting anxiety, depression, and anger in the healthiest way possible – I buried it all deep down inside and insisted I was fine all the time.

nugget blog 1First Descents was my new beginning. At camp, no one goes by his or her real name. That gets left behind, along with full-size toiletries and shame about peeing outdoors. At camp, we were Nugget, Raebird, Dori, Roots, Aims, Notorious, Y-Y, Raver, E Peso, Blades, and Freud. We were whoever the hell we wanted to be.

We spent our days climbing. Every time I approached the rocks, fear punched me in the gut. I got so nervous, it felt like the all strength had drained out of my muscles. I was on the verge of giving up constantly. I was halfway up the face of a cliff when the worst bout of this ridiculous fear hit. I looked for holds in the rock above, but everything seemed to be just out of reach. Clouds covered the sun. It started to rain. My silly little neuropathy-ridden hands went completely numb. I hadn’t moved in what felt like forever. I was frozen again. I started to panic.

Before I could spiral too far into self-doubt, one of our guides climbed her way over to me. “Do you want to come down?”

I imagined going back down. It wasn’t what I wanted. “I just don’t want to not get to the top.”

“Okay, then just climb.”

She grabbed my foot, shoved it up about eight inches, and suddenly I was climbing again. And I was slipping and clawing my way up. And it was not pretty, but that part didn’t matter. My fellow campers cheered me on. And then, I was at the top.

We spent our nights sharing stories. We’d bundle up in pajamas and blankets, and snuggle into chairs around the campfire. We laughed about the events of the day. We sang along to songs strummed on a guitar. One by one, we all poured our hearts out.

When I first met Raebird, she was talking about the ruggedly handsome Greenpeace volunteer she had just met. After one conversation, she had accepted his invitation to road trip across the country together after camp. She was this insane mixture of boldness and compassion. She told me that if any gentlemen ever gave me a hard time, I should take a pair of garden shears to their balls. At the campfire, she talked about recently finding out her cancer had spread further. Everyone cried.

Dori was this kind of ethereal, Australian mermaid-person. Yes, her nickname was a Finding Nemo reference. She had an accent and we were Americans – it was inevitable. Her bed was next to mine in the lodge, and we would stay up late whispering about nonsense. At the campfire, she told us how much she had lost to cancer. She was late-stage and still battling, yet somehow she just glowed. She could have been so bitter. No one would have faulted her. But she wasn’t. I sobbed all through my low-pressure shower that night.

nugget blog 3By the end of the week we were all so disgustingly bonded that it was hard to imagine leaving each other. We stayed up talking until 3am that last night. At the airport the next morning, we found a secluded spot to sit and be together for just a little while longer. My flight was the latest. One by one, my fellow campers peeled off towards security. We hugged each other tightly and promised to post our pictures on Facebook as soon as we got home. Dori was the last to go. The two of us waxed on about me visiting her in Australia. We would lie on the beach and whisper about nonsense.

And then, I was on my own. I had greasy hair, my skin was spattered with scrapes and bruises, my muscles were sore, my mind was exhausted, and I was the second happiest I’d ever been.

I didn’t come away from camp with any prophetic revelations about what to do with my life. I won’t offer you any dime-store philosophy about living each day like it’s your last. The truth is, there isn’t some cosmic secret to bliss that they only tell cancer survivors. We all really already know the right things to do – be kind, help others, don’t give away Game of Thrones spoilers. First Descents didn’t make me a new person. It taught me to accept the person I already was, nerves and warts and all.

I still get nervous. I’m going after this whole comedy thing in Chicago now. Last year, on the eve of the eighteenth anniversary of my diagnosis, I stood on a stage at Second City to audition for the final leg of their conservatory program. The auditor called my name, and that ridiculous fear gripped me once again. I imagined pushing the guy next to me over to create a diversion and escaping through the dark aisle. But escaping wasn’t what I really wanted. So, I took a deep breath and that first step forward, and I went for it. For twenty minutes, I was my weird self on stage. And then it was over. I went to the bar across the street and drank cheap beer under the sun with some friends. And a few days later, they told me I was in, but that part didn’t matter.

After camp, Roots moved to Colorado and embraced the climber lifestyle. Notorious rode his motorcycle around the country. Aims studied her way through pharmacy school. E Peso got married. Great things happened. Awful things happened. Raebird and Dori both passed away.

nugget blog 4On the last day of camp, we split into groups and made our way up a 350-foot tall, ancient chunk of stone called Castle Rock. We left our personal demons in the dust. By the time we got to the top, we were grinning like idiots, drunk on confidence. (You know, how Matthew McConaughey is all the time.) The sunlight was streaming down from a cloudless sky. The views were breathtaking. I looked around at all my friends. They were cheering on Freud, who was peeing outdoors for the very first time. I was the happiest I’d ever been.

Black Canyon of the Bear Whitewater Festival 2014

black canyon logo28 paddlers. Over 100 attendees. A whole lotta rain, and a whole lotta snow.

The 3rd Annual Black Canyon of the Bear whitewater festival was held on April 26th, 2014 in the tiny town of Grace, ID.  This event is a whitewater kayaking race that runs the Black Canyon of the Bear River, a dam released river that has class III, IV, and V rapids. Talented boaters from all around the region come together to race, have a great time, and raise money for First Descents.

After the race kicked off around 11am at the class V rapid Boo-Boo, in a down-pour of snow, our dedicated paddlers made their way to the take out for a 3 hour festival including burgers, beer, and a raffle with loads of amazing gear and swag, including a Dagger Katana expedition boat.

Everyone was so stoked to be together supporting First Descents, and the event raised $1300! Enough to send 1 more participant on the adventure of a lifetime.

A huge shout-out to the event planners, Bryson White and Tyler Babcock, along with all of the selfless volunteers that helped throughout the day. Your support means so much to First Descents and the young adults we serve. #OutLivingIt

Big thanks to the event sponsors too!

Adventure Technology Paddles, Werner Paddles, Yakima Racks, Petzl, Suunto, Salomon, NRS, Stohlquist WaterWare, Astral, Goal Zero,  Jack’s Plastic Welding, Sweet Protection, Smith Optics, Dagger Kayaks

For info on how YOU can help FD, click here.