Monthly Archives: June 2012

It’s Baaaack…

Ugh… Where to begin?

Last Thursday, I got the news from my radiation oncologist that my scans weren’t clear. I spent the rest of that day laying in the grass making phone call after phone call to various people in the network I’d created for myself during the initial run. My first call was to the hubs, and the next call, obviously, was to the guy producing the documentary.  A couple of hours later my parents each got a call… serious priorities.

Long-ish story short, I cancelled all of my weekend plans and headed to Chicago for one last summer weekend of reckless behavior with Emily. I threw on a sassy little green number, and off we went… to Wrigleyville.  For those of you not familiar with Wrigleyville, it’s where all the frat boys and sorostitutes go directly after graduation, people are more ticked off that the cop tasing some drunk guy is blocking the sidewalk than the fact that the cop is tasing some drunk guy, and everyone there, without doubt, is dressed for the club, hanging at a bar that, in other parts of the country, would call for little more than a t-shirt and jeans. Yes, this is where I wanted to go for my night of debauchery. 

And it.was.awesome.

I saw Dr. Mutch the following Tuesday and a new doctor at Northwestern, Dr. Schink, on Wednesday.  Both agreed that the cancer is more aggressive than perhaps they first understood and that I should get in a clinical trial as soon as possible.  I’m getting scans and blood work done next week, and, if all goes as planned, I’ll start the trial the following week. I will lose my hair by the end of July, but I would lose my hair a thousand times if it meant that I’d get to be cancer free.

As you can imagine, it’s been a shit storm of a week.  I’ve been an emotional basket case with intermittent bouts of taking care of business.  I’m doing my best to stay positive, but it’s difficult.  I’ve been touching my hair constantly and looking in the mirror (more than usual) as if doing so will somehow summon a miracle. I am here today, and I’m enjoying every second of it.  Cancer is not going to win this battle. Not if I have any say.

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First Descents

In October 2003, I was part of a team from City Year that organized the service project for the Outdoor Industry Association convention in Vail, Colorado.  At the banquet afterwards, I sat captivated as I listened to the amazing story told by our young keynote speaker.  He had done more selfless acts in his 22 years on this earth than most people do in a lifetime.  Being only 23 myself and doing some good of my own, I felt I had a right to feel shared pride with him. After his presentation, I waited for the crowd that swarmed him to settle.  I was one of the last people to approach him in the banquet hall and wanted only to congratulate him for his success in the non-profit world and tell him how great it is to see a 20something contributing to society and using his talents for good.  That short congratulatory message turned into a 3 hour conversation, which later turned into a friendship.

At age 18, Brad Ludden started a kayak camp in Colorado for young adults with cancer. First Descents has since grown to include surfing and rock climbing and now has programs all over the United States and even has a few in Central and South America (for more information on First Descents and to find out how to get involved, visit  Back in 2003, I thought the camp was a phenomenal idea and sounded like an absolute blast. My friendship with Brad was, of course, separate from his endeavors in the cancer world, but I followed the happenings of First Descents closely.  I had no idea then how it would later change my life.

When I first found out that I had cancer, Brad was the first person I called outside my own family.  We had not spoken in over 4 years, but he was as warm and supportive as ever.  He quickly connected me to a number of invaluable resources and, in the months that followed, despite his busy schedule, continued to be a source of support for me himself as I navigated my way through the chaos we commonly refer to as treatment.  He said that, without question, I was going to First Descents this summer.  I was ecstatic.

I just got back from the week-long FD program in Moab, Utah.  Yes, climbing and rappelling with such a breathtaking backdrop would have been enough to justify the smile that has not left my face since the trip. And yes, we ran through sprinklers and played Twister and did yoga in the park and sat in the hot tub every night and did karaoke in our lodge.  We laughed as a group more than I’ve laughed with any group of people in a really long time.  We sang in the van and around the camp fire and on the rock… we pretty much sang 90s hits everywhere you can imagine.  We gave creepy hugs and told jokes and pulled pranks and shared stories.  All of that was great, but none of it compares to the normalcy I felt for the first time since my diagnosis.  Everyone there understood. Everyone there had a scar and a memory. And that was our normal.

A weight has been lifted from my shoulders, and a big, giant THANK YOU goes out to Brad and everyone else that has helped First Descents stay alive.

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