Participant Testimonials

"It truly surpassed all expectations. I made friends for life, found that my body is capable of much more than I thought, and laughed harder than I have in years. I felt amazing, and I think we all did". - 2016 Alum

FD and whitewater kayaking gave me my life back. My no longer athletic body felt strong again. I wasn't alone in my diagnosis anymore. I realized that when I pushed myself out of my comfort zone that beautiful things happened. I found my cancer family. I found home. - FD Alum

Through my experience with FD, I have no only acquired a new passion, but also new friendships that have highlighted the positive changes in my life, and helped to set me on a path that leads to a fuller, more adventurous, post-cancer journey. "Namaste" - FD Alum

My cancer and my past may have shaped who I am, but I am neither my past nor my cancer. I am whoever I want to be on the river, and I can take this wave and keep Out Living It on and off the water. - Leilani- FD Alum

This whole experience has shown me that this busted up body which has betrayed me over and over is still incredibly capable of doing things I never thought possible. Kayaking and Out Living It has seriously boosted my self confidence and has instilled in me the boldness to try things I thought were so far from my grasp. - "Morning"- FD Alum

‘’ Cancer steals your joy, your money, your future and your identity. After diagnosis you fight, not cancer and treatment, which are endured with prayers but to reclaim living. First Descents, honestly seemed too good to be true. An adventure where I didn't need to worry about money or planning, where I could just be me and I can be myself here, even the cancer-y parts. This week has been a breath of fresh air after the long exhale of achieving remission. I’ve challenged myself surfing!!! I’ve made fast friends and I’ve laughed. I didn't think I can capture how deeply this trip makes me feel well. Thank You! -Cinnamon- 2015 participant P.S Have you ever stood on a surfboard riding a wave to the shore? Its glorious! Thanks for making it possible.’’

"This trip was the most incredible week of my life. I have been so empowered and inspired. I didn't realize how therapeutic the kayaking and bonding with other survivors would truly be. It was the most impactful therapy I've ever experienced. Thank you". - 2015 Participant

While they were as supportive as they could be, my family and friends could not be supporting of my dealing with cancer because they had no direct experience with it. They had no way to relate. Getting out to Tarkio allowed me several things: a chance to get away from the BS in my regular life that was threatening my insanity and emotional integrity; it allowed me to experience an entirely beautiful setting that I’ve always wanted to but never previously had the opportunity to; but most importantly, it allowed me to network with other people of my own peer group who had first-hand experience of dealing with cancer, in all its stages, in dealing with the emotional and mental problems that come from trying to deal with it and moving into continuing life. THIS, above all, was the most beneficial, if also more underrated/practiced part of the program. This helped me the most. Thank you, FD, for that.

Through our First Descent, we ascended and transcended from cancer survivors to a family empowered. I’ve kayaked beyond my turbulent life and paddled my way to OUTLIVING IT!!! Thanks so much.

I really wanted to wait a bit before I started to comment on this page. When you are in the throws of a new environment it is easy to get caught up and say things you may not mean a couple of months down the road. It's almost been a month since Moab and I can honestly say that my outlook is completely different. I am a positive person but throughout my treatment and school year it was just down right tough to stay positive. That is until I went to Utah. You all have helped me tremendously with my battle with cancer, and I just wanted to truly thank you. And a completely different note, I hit the rock climbing gym with my friends. It was good to get back into it but I'll be honest, I love my friends but it wasn't as fun as with my first descents family. It truly was a trip of a lifetime and I will always remember it!

FD was the quintessential experience. I have been having problems becoming comfortable in my new cancer body. My week in FD gave me the chance to know that I can still do whatever I put my mind too. The people there have given a new meaning to friendship and to caring.

Being blind [from cancer] has created a huge void in my life. That’s why First Descents is so awesome. Just to be given that opportunity to get back into sports, it was surreal. I was finally an athlete again.

Here at camp, people with cancer are the majority and people without cancer are the minority. Where else does that happen?

I am a single mom of 3 young kids, and since I was diagnosed 2 years ago I have never done anything like this for myself. This week, after 2 years of being very very angry at cancer for driving my marriage apart and completely stressing me and my family out, I have chosen to forgive cancer. This is the most amazing gift I could have ever been given, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I know that I will return to my kids a new woman full of hope, optimism, happiness, and love. Thank you, thank you.

I felt so encouraged and empowered by the FD staff- I continue to carry this belief in my abilities to this day.

The amount inspiration you get from the group of survivors you are with is something out of a movie. There is so much passion and determination in such a small group of people that became some of my closest friends, and the memories I made with them will inspire and motivate me for the rest of my life.

My life post cancer has been mostly lows, very depressing, not believing in myself. FD taught me a valuable lesson……life is like a Wave Train. There is both ups and downs, but if you believe in yourself and hop on, you will have the ride of your life!! Thank you FD! I woov choo!

This was an amazing week - haven’t felt that strong since my diagnosis.

My experience was so amazing at First Descents. I met people I consider great friends or even my second family. Before this trip I was a wreck. I was self-conscious, not brave, and I wasn't very social. I was so scared to go. I've never been on a plane or even out of state without my parents. All the staff of First Descents was amazing. I thought I was going to meet the staff and they wouldn't understand what us survivors were going through. But, I was wrong they were so smart beyond their years. They didn't make anything awkward. They made us forget about a diagnoses and made us feel as normal as we wish we were. I have to say I've never laughed so much in my life but the last day when the staff did a song and dance for us it was so amazing and funny. The last day was bittersweet but I knew I would always have these people in my life. It's been a month since my trip and I still talk to everyone everyday. I text, email, Facebook, or send letters. I feel like a thank-you isn't enough. My FD family changed my life. I'm now trying to go back to college. I'm not hiding in my room. I'm hanging out with old friends I lost because I was so sick and couldn't hang out. The whole FD family did that for me but especially Braveheart. She is also a Hodgkin's Lymphoma survivor. We had talks about how she moved on from her diagnoses and she is my inspiration to be a better me. I love First Descents and I hope one day I can be a House Mom or go on a trip just to learn to kayak. :) <3

Kayaking and cancer brought us together, but the living we experienced formed life long bonds.

Because of my experience with First Descents, I am even more grateful for my second chance at life.

What is great about FD, is that if offers the absolute best learning environment possible because the best learning environments are ones that offer the learners an experience, rather than a “lesson.” The lesson occurs only when the learner interacts with the experience. Because each of us brings his or her own life experiences and prior knowledge to the table, or in this case, river, each takes a different lesson away from the experience. Our 40+ crew drew from a variety of life experiences, and during our time together, we wove the personal with the collective to create a beautiful mosaic. A 15-year old might not see the bigger life lessons inherent in a kayak tipover and recovery, but a 50-year old cancer survivor definitely experiences epiphany when she has to turn that boat (her life) back over!

Thank you so much, FD has made such a difference in my daily life over the last year. I feel like I'm not alone in the world and like I have something to work towards, aspire to and look forward to, and even a way to have something to give to other young adults with cancer whereas before I just avoided them. I don't know of any other group of people who get to have such an awesome experience available to them and I feel so privileged and blessed to be part of FD.

While this sounds completely insane, knowing what I know now about FD, if three years ago someone gave me the choice between 1. cancer, treatment, and FD or 2. continue with my life as is and never be introduced to FD, I'd hands down choose option 1.

Once again I want to thank you for establishing such a great organization it has truly helped me and it has opened my eyes to a new world. Never would have imagined surfing or climbing and coming up in July Kayaking. The FD experience has served as a catalyst to new pursuits in my life and opportunities that I would have never imagined possible.

When I signed up for FD it was all about the adventure and physical challenge for me. Above anything else I wanted to get my roll during the week and nothing else mattered. But as the week went along and I got to know everyone at camp it quickly became much less important. That is when First Descents began to change me and made me realize the impact cancer had really made on my life. It was during a conversation with another camper when I realized I had never shared my worries and fears about my cancer with my wife. I spent my energy being positive for her and not paying any attention to my own feelings. I owe my marriage to those friends I made that week. With the help of First Descents and all the friends we have made we have put my cancer behind us and as a result we are expecting twins in the next few months.I believe this gift would not have been possible without First Descents.

Thanks again for all you and everyone at FD does for me, and other survivors. I would not be able to handle the cards that have been dealt without First Descents.

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