Here at The Samfund we have the pleasure of working with some amazing partner organizations. This week our guest blogger, Hannah Bean, a Sambassador and First Descents participant, will be sharing her experience with First Descents. First Descents offers young adult cancer fighters and survivors a free outdoor adventure experience designed to empower them to reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same. You can find out more about their programs here.
Being diagnosed with cancer in my early twenties was hard, really hard.
Cancer changed everything. I didn’t realize how much of a person’s life it influenced.
Everything moved so quickly: I was diagnosed and had to stop working almost immediately. At the time I worked for The Y in the afterschool programs, and I loved it! Choosing to stop working may have been the hardest thing I had ever done. Treatment began after all the testing to figure out how advanced my cancer was. I believe the whole process took a month, but in all honesty, it went by in a blur. I went through 8 rounds of chemo, which included some heavy duty steroids. The steroids caused me to put on a lot of weight, around 75 pounds! I didn’t even realize it was happening. It wasn’t until almost a year and a half after I went into remission that I finally started to have the energy to really move on with my life.
On a whim I signed up for a First Descents weekend trip that was being held locally. I am not sure what I expected going into the weekend, but it changed my life. For the first time in a very long time, I wasn’t treated like a cancer patient.
We went whitewater rafting on the first day, and used sit-a-top kayaks on day two (also on whitewater). While they gave us plenty of chances to have breaks, it was certainly not scaled down because we were cancer survivors. When the trip started I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through, but at the end of the weekend I was hooked.
I went home and immediately emailed First Descents and got on the waitlist for a weeklong trip. Three weeks later I was in Tarkio, Montana. I had one of the hardest weeks of my life, but I was surrounded by people who supported me both physically and mentally. We were not forced to talk about our illnesses, but the fellow participants understood what I’d been through. Although we came from different backgrounds, we all had one thing in common: Cancer. Part of me was able to heal that week that I didn’t know needed to.
I’m now happy to share I’ve lost 55 pounds (since January 2015) and go back to the Y almost every day to work out. First Descents inspired me to be more active and I continue to be involved with them today.