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70,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer each year. That’s 70,000 individuals who could benefit from a First Descents experience. We’re on a mission to Prescribe Adventure to each one of them.
Our goal is simple, to provide the healing power of adventure to young adults impacted by cancer earlier in their treatment journey.
We recently sat down with Dr. Elizabeth “Zil” Sherwood to hear her perspective on Prescribe Adventure. Dr. Sherwood worked for many years at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (UNC) as a nurse practitioner and the clinical coordinator of the UNC survivorship program. She also worked at LIVESTRONG™ Center of Excellence and now has started her own business. She is a long-time member of the First Descents community, working as a First Descents volunteer, medical advisor and blog writer.
Dr. Sherwood sees First Descents as a solution for gaps in AYA survivor programs. According to Sherwood, hospital-based survivorship programming after cancer treatment is usually underfunded and unsuccessful for numerous reasons. “People often travel to big cancer centers for specialized care. This increases the challenges of attendance at young adult survivorship programs because people are already traveling for their care, and going back on ‘non treatment days’ is a drag. Additionally, returning to the hospital when you have completed treatment can be quite triggering. I’ve observed much greater success with off-site gatherings.”
This is why First Descents is stepping in to radically improve survivorship programs through our robust and ever-expanding network of healthcare partners. FD designs custom programs for our partners and their patients because we know that adventure and community can help foster healing where medicine and the clinical setting often fall short.
As a longtime supporter and believer in FD’s mission, Dr. Sherwood has witnessed our impact first hand. “In terms of quality of life, sense of connection and community, and wellness, I am positive that First Descents has a huge impact. As Dr. Zebrak’s study indicated, the young adults that benefit the most are often those with a higher level of distress who are in need of more psychosocial support. In many cases, young adults feel isolated around other patients who are frequently much older. Oncology care providers, doctors and nurses, are not as informed as they often times should be about the special needs of the young adult population.”
We hear from many participants that having First Descents to look forward to following treatment gave them hope and courage during some of the darkest times. And we hear from even more who wished they had learned of First Descents sooner. Now, we are taking the steps to bring the healing power of adventure into patients’ treatment plans sooner than ever before.
First Descents is arming healthcare partners with tools to spread awareness and increase access to First Descents programs. Through Prescribe Adventure, FD is being recognized as a critical step in the survivorship pathway. It’s easy to get involved: simply spread the word and share the healing power of adventure.
FD alumni Jennifer “Galaxy Girl” Jackson said it best: “I would love to see a future where the medical system goes beyond treating my sickness, and starts healing my soul. I would love to see every young adult cancer patient get a written prescription for First Descents, because nothing is more healing than Out Living It!”
That’s what Prescribe Adventure is all about, and it’s why Dr. Sherwood is so intent on supporting our bold initiative. “I have seen miracles happen during my weeks as a FD medical volunteer, and feel so honored to be able to inform health care providers and young adults of the possibility for transformation. I have seen young adults from all walks of life take some sort of gift away from the week Getting the word out to health care providers, oncologists, NP’s and PA’s, nurses, nurse navigators and social workers, is really important. They need to know that this is more than just an outdoor program. The real idea is to help people find a community and resources after cancer – all while having a great time in a beautiful place, with beautiful people and fantastic food! And who doesn’t want a little adventure?”
If you know a doctor, nurse, social worker or other medical professional that can help Prescribe Adventure to more young adults, refer them to First Descents. As Dr. Sherwood verifies, “It is the connections and the people that make this program work.”