Ever since I was little art and nature have been the two strongest influences for me. When I was recovering from my second cancer related surgery and I was struggling to feel hopeful, these were the forces that helped me feel better.
I felt really alone after surgery. I didn’t know anyone else who had lived through cancer who was my age. I started searching online for advice for people my age with cancer. What I found was First Descents. For the first time since my surgery I felt a surge of hope as I read about the outdoor adventures this group went on. I immediately filled out the form and hoped I would be able to go on a program and that my husband and family could handle taking care of my two little ones if I got accepted.
While I waited to hear back from FD, I started hiking. I figured I would need to be in better shape if I was going to surf or kayak or rock climb. Every hike cleared my head and soon I was ready to start making art again (something I had felt too sad to do right after surgery). The wonderful thing about hiking and painting for me is getting “in the zone”. I was so focused on scrambling over rocks or swishing my brush in just the right way that I forgot everything else. I was fully present, not worried about my cancer coming back, not worried about treatment options. I decided that I would try every day to paint just a little, no matter if I was feeling down or not because even just 15 minutes of putting paint on paper got me out of my head and feeling good again.
Then I got the best email ever. There was a spot in the September surfing program with First Descents! I said yes, booked my plane ticket and then immediately started second guessing my decision. I was so nervous about leaving my children and spending an entire week with strangers. I wanted to cancel so many times, but instead I got on the plane and headed to Santa Cruz. The week in Santa Cruz flew by with surfing, exploring and mostly laughter. I am pretty sure that week was the most I’d laughed since my surgery.
I never expected to love all the people on that trip as much as I do. To make friends who really got what I was going through was magical. Not to mention spending a week riding waves, having crazy dance parties & exploring a new city together. After flying home I did what I always do when I am full of emotions, I painted. I spent the days and weeks missing my surf camp friends so I painted bright colorful abstracts inspired by their amazing spirits. I decided to take my favorites of the paintings and use them to raise funds for FD. I am hoping to continue my fundraiser by selling more prints and by creating a series of small original paintings as well.
I hope that selling my art can help send more young adults on adventures with FD and maybe inspire other survivors to use art to help in their own healing.
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