Thursday, May 24, 2012

First Descents

I have never been a spontaneous person. Cancer, and all the new anxieties that have come with it, have made me even less inclined to take risks or act impulsively. So it's somewhat surprising that today I booked a round-trip ticket to Nashville, Tennessee for June 6th, returning June 12th. That's 13 days away, and I don't own a third of the items on the suggested packing list.

Why am I flying to Nashville and staying in nearby Bryson City, North Carolina? The non-profit organization, First Descents, is providing 14 other young adult cancer survivors and me with a week-long, whitewater kayaking adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains. The mission of the camp is to help survivors heal and regain their confidence and sense of empowerment.

My boss, who is involved in the organization, has convinced me that the benefits of this experience will be worth the effort it will take for me to bust loose from the cage of fear I've been living in for the past year. Thirteen days doesn't give me a lot of prep time. It's also doesn't give me enough time to properly worry and fret about all the unlikely things that could go wrong, which is perfect.

The only cost to participants is airfare (travel scholarships are available). Wow, I mean, wow! And this kayaking trip is one of 50 programs First Descents is hosting this year. WOW. The compassion, dedication, and generosity of the people who make these trips possible is heart-warming and inspirational.

The organization gets its name from the term in kayaking referring to the first time a kayaker descends a challenging stretch of river. The founder, Brad Ludden, is an avid kayaker. He conceived of the idea of helping other young adult cancer survivors while his aunt was battling breast cancer. First Decents' mission is to "offer young adult cancer fighters and survivors a free outdoor adventure experience designed to empower them to climb, paddle and surf beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same."

You can learn more about the organization at: First Descents

Much more to come in future posts.