Friday, November 9, 2012

Out Living It

Fellow young adult cancer survivors on the 3-day Lares Trek
through the Andes Mountains of Peru.
October 2012
"Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are.”  (Bernice Johnson Reagon)

Here at the Ellie Fund, we love to feature and support organizations that fight against cancer right along side us.

The cancer journey for me personally has been one of self-discovery.  I thought I knew who I was and where my life was heading, but it wasn't until I had to face cancer and my own mortality that I truly learned what living was about.  I didn't do this on my own however.  I needed help getting to that point where I could let go of the anger, the frustration, the guilt, and the vulnerability and move on.  The help came in the form of a Colorado-based, non-profit organization called First Descents. 

First Descents offers 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. In 2012, they held rock climbing, whitewater kayaking and surfing programs in the U.S., South America, and Central America. 

I've taken part in 4 First Descents' camps since 2009.  I have learned to whitewater kayak on rivers in Montana, Colorado, and Idaho.  This past October I went on a 10 day journey to Peru where I rafted the Apurimac River, completed a 3-day Lares Trek through the Andes Mountains in which I climbed to an elevation of 15,016 feet, and visited Machu Picchu along side 11 other young adult cancer survivors and several First Descents' staff members, including the founder of this amazing organization, Brad Ludden.
First Descents has truly changed my life.

Because of First Descents, I am able to trust my body again and realize that I am now even stronger than I was pre-cancer.  I have done things that I never would have even considered doing pre-cancer.  I can kayak class III rapids with confidence and climb 3,000 feet in vertical elevation on my own two feet; I can LIVE.  I can live in the moment and not dwell on the past and worry too much about the future.  The road to the discovery of my true self has been an amazing one.

For more information about First Descents, visit  You can also email me at
First Descents Whitewater Kayaking trip to Glacier National Park
in Montana 2009