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a time for reflection…


I just finished a program through this amazing organization for cancer survivors/thrivers called First Descents based here in Colorado.  I was selected to participate in the (FD40+) mountain climbing program in Estes Park in August.  And over three weeks later I am still processing it all.  During that week “Out Living It” {their slogan} meant stepping out of ALL comfort zones, letting walls down and people in, being completely vulnerable and doing something I never thought I would or could.  Of course, cancer completely changes everything about you and, to be honest, the word ‘fear’ was completely redefined.  From diagnosis through 18 weekly chemo treatments all the way to learning to live and balance your life after… I now find myself fearful of NOT making the most of my days rather than being fearful of trying new things.  I completed a multi pitched climb to the top of a huge mountain and repelled down (there were a few tears, a few moments of panic and a few prayers along the way.)  It was the most paralyzing fear I have ever experienced. (Honestly, I really didn’t love mountain climbing.   But I loved pushing myself.)   And I completely loved having my new First Descents family believing in and pushing me as well (particularly my dear friend “Phishy” who literally talked me “up the pitch” when I was freaking out and my friend “I Can D” who cheered me on from the summit of her nearby mountain as well as my climbing partner “Tension”.  We all had nicknames for ourselves for the week…mine was “Shutterbabe”. )

Here is an image of some of my fellow climbers celebrating their summit..

Throughout the week I felt raw and exposed but also fearless and completely alive.  Once I summited “The Thumb” in Prospect Park in Estes I asked our awesome volunteer photographer (Bear Bait) to take my photo so I could really believe that I’d done it. I’ll cherish these images forever as well as the entire FD experience. It truly was indescribable.

Here’s her image of two of our climbing instructors at the summit:

But earlier this summer my family took a quick trip to Grand Lake, Colorado and the four of us rented two double kayaks and paddled the circumference of the lake.  It was a truly peaceful and magical experience for our family.  As I look reflectively back on things “out living it”, for me, means getting out and making memories with them rather than climbing mountains by myself.   Something about the view of the mountains from that kayak, the path and potential of the deep water, along with the fresh air and the peaceful solitude opened up something in each of us that day. I will forever be a mountain girl and ‘home’ will always be Colorado.

I am so grateful to First Descents for the truly life-changing week in the mountains and to all of my fellow cancer survivors/FD family for an experience that I probably will never find the right words to explain. I feel blessed and forever changed by all of it. We truly are better off for all that we let in.

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Kat - September 17, 2015 - 3:14 pm

You’re a bada** Mary Beth

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