I've said on the podcast that the best cancer perk is cancer camp. Last week, I went on my FD1 with First Descents, an organization that provides adventure trips to young cancer survivors. At the end of the trip, they give you a card for you to write a note to "The Friends of First Descents," the people that donate money so that FD can provide these trips at no cost to the cancer survivors. I put down a few sentences, all there was room for. If I would have had more space, here's what I wanted to say:
Dear Friends of First Descents,
Thank you for this trip. Before I went, I was excited for the surfing and the delicious food, hanging on the beach and playing in the ocean. After going, I have a few surprising things to add to that list.
Community: The trip gave me access to a dozen or more IRL people who have been through something similar. By just physically bringing people together, this trip connected me to others with a similar diagnosis who've been through my same struggles. The best side effect of cancer is connecting with the community, full of people who pay it forward and give their time and energy to helping others through the cancer journey. Cancer is a team sport, and it can be hard to find your teammates.
Tools: First Descents provided an opportunity to bring out my best self, starting with the simple physical of clean eating, enough sleep, and exercise. The FD trip also sprinkles in opportunities for gratitude, service, mindfulness, and fun. I also got to talk to others about the tools they've used (successfully and otherwise).
Identity: The hardest thing for me through all of this is what cancer did and does to my identity. In a lot of ways, cancer destroyed the old me, and I'm left to rebuild myself with little direction. FD gave me the opportunity to see what I can still do, what fun things my physical self makes possible. My 2.0 is not ONLY a cancer patient/survivor: my 2.0 might be a surfer or a climber. My 2.0 is whatever I want it to be, whatever I make it.
So thank you for doing something tangible to help us here in cancer recovery. I had amazing food and a life-changing experience.