I am excited to share my week with First Descents, a non-profit that offers the opportunity for cancer fighters and survivors to spend a week at camp: kayaking, horseback riding, yoga, campfires, general fun, etc. Founded by Brad Ludden, Nike pro kayaker, FD is in its 10th year! I have been invited to come and capture the week with photos for the campers and share the experience with our IA community.
This week’s camp session is located at 7W Ranch in Colorado, which is a 360 degree landscape set back away from everything: gorgeous! I met 15 new friends at the Denver airport, led by Smelly, a kayaker free spirit who is running the show for us. When she is not working with FD, she leads adventure tours in Costa Rica- how cool is that?
After designating our nicknames for the week, no legal names allowed, we piled into a short bus and headed to camp. We had a few stops along the way to acclimate to the dramatic change in altitude, which allowed us to find a huge tree house and a few scenic stops (pics below).
In our group of 15 campers, we have people from all over the country, as well as Canada, of both genders and all ages. One thing everyone has in common is cancer. Two women, LOLS and ZILLA (both 25 like me), found that they had the same rare sub-type of Hodgkins and were able to discuss their treatment plans. In IA terms: a perfect 1-on-1 match. Both are under 3 years out of treatment and are living their lives. LOLS is planning to study to be a P.A. and works as an EMT, and ZILLA, recently engaged, is working with cancer charity organizations. Both were diagnosed at stage 3 or above and beat it. Amazing.
Another story came from a woman in her 20s named CANADA: a three time survivor. She was diagnosed with childhood cancer and has continued to fight. She is a few months out of treatment and is here: healthy. I am excited to learn more about her story and the insight that she has learned through her experiences- I can already tell that she is a fighter.
Warrived at camp, met the staff, and I was surprised by a good friend: Jonny Imerman! We had a family style dinner and a campfire where we introduced ourselves. Funny awards were given out, some Chuck Norris jokes were thrown around. Jonny shared his story as a testicular cancer survivor and answered a few questions about 1-on-1 cancer support.
ESPN is here this week, covering FD as well- it is a great place to be. The backdrop here is paradise. I am excited for tomorrow when we hit the water!