When I applied to go on the First Descents trip, I just knew for sure that I needed to meet other young adults that were willing to live life in spite of cancer. I needed to know that there were others that were not interested in just sitting on their couch angry about their circumstances. Their promo video made me cry. It made me realize that even though I keep trying, I'm not really living life like I was before the diagnosis. I'm weak, needy, scared, confused, angry, frustrated, lonely, and desperate for a truly "normal" life! Thankfully, I believe in a God that is real and he loves me even when my pride and overwhelming sense of entitlement get in the way!
I really had no idea how much this trip would help and impact me. Just riding in the car from the airport looking at the amazing views in Montana and listening to the others talk about what their nicknames should be started to overwhelm me. I've NEVER been anywhere alone... I've always been with a friend or family - an now, these people would not even know my real name - only a nickname! I've also never had a nickname and didn't know how to create or pick one. We drove up at the lodge and Chia, Yak, and Q all had their nicknames... I was just trying not to cry. I felt so overwhelmed knowing I was about to be doing a whole lot of new stuff and was feeling a bit guilty for leaving my family behind to do this selfish trip for me. After meeting with the doctor and nurse, my nickname evolved and I became known as "MoonShine". Suddenly, I didn't have to be anyone for anybody. I wasn't a wife, mother, daughter, sister, cousin, or friend - I wasn't even a cancer patient! I was MoonShine and I was going to learn about kayaking along with a dozen others that had never tried this and we were getting to learn from some of the best in the world. I was no longer putting the pressure on myself to chase normal for everyone around me! I was overwhelmed with relief, yet again fighting tears, and nervous about having to be alone with my thoughts.
I have to admit that I was terrified by the whole adventure experience. I wasn't scared of the water, of having to swim, or even of drowning (I actually had a scary experience during a swim in the rapids but that is another story!). Turns out my issue was one of TRUST. I had to trust others to flip my kayak back over when I managed to get myself upside down. I had to trust that if I had a seizure that they could help me. I had to trust that my slow learning and small failures and short term memory issues might be an inconvenience, but everyone had some kind of issues. I just kept having to remind myself that I was kayaking with people that are experts at this sport. Professionals that lots of people spend big money to work with out on the water and to continue to make this fun for me and minimize the risks, we also had a nurse and ER doctor kayaking right along beside us. I could not have dreamed up a safer environment to take risks and learn to live life in spite of cancer! "What could possibly go wrong?" ~PK
In our off the river time, I really enjoyed hearing every one's stories. We talked privately about diagnosis and how the cancer was found, about how it changed the people around us, about how treatment was different for everyone... many of us agreed radiation was worse than chemo. I learned about other resources for young adults with cancer. I decided I want to find a way to be more involved. I need to make sure that one less person feels alone in this diagnosis. We spent lots of time laughing at some really stupid things... have you read the directions on the toothpick box lately?
I also spent LOTS of time in the kitchen watching our amazing chefs work. Feast your eyes on just a few of the amazing meals they fed us. Everything was made with fresh, local, and organic ingredients! Just in case you have time to plan your last meal in this life, I am facebook friends with these kitchen superheros!
When I tried to fall asleep at night, my thoughts would stream through all of the 'what ifs'. What if I can't maintain this happy normal life I have so desperately worked to rebuild for my family. What if I invest time and money in learning something new that I won't get the chance to use? What if I have to smash my safe little box where I have so carefully placed us. What if it is really okay for me to have fun and not take everything so seriously while going over all of the worst case scenarios.
I am forever thankful for my week as MoonShine. I was able to realize that since being diagnosed with cancer that I have been so incredibly busy being normal for everyone that I have managed to forget that I'm important too. I don't have to stop dreaming so that I can be realistic and cautious so that everyone around me can continue to dream. I will dream too and I have a new village of friends that also hate cancer and love life! My new FD family reminded me that we should all challenge ourselves and continue to dream.
Stitch, I will sign up for a random class to teach me something new! Yak, I will laugh more. Cookie and Cowboy, I will look into StupidCancer.org and hopefully see yall there. Choppa and Skillet, I will read more warning labels, laugh hysterically, and wonder if yall have called the 1800 number to find out what to do with your used toothpick. BlakeFish, I will play more card games. Habibi, I will try a new fitness class. Starfish, I will be more consistent (maybe!) with my blog. Doodles, I will be a better listener like you. DJ Rob, I'm going to have a dance party with my kids in my living room! Papa T, I'm going to appreciate my family, our Texas sun, and avoid COLD water. Cheerio, I will find new sports to challenge me and keep trying when I fail.
I will write a bucket list.
I will try to silence the negative what ifs by replacing them with new adventures!
I will look at the string on my left arm and remember that I have more support than I can comprehend. I will let it remind me that MoonShine has to stop being so cautious and be willing to try new things that might lead to failure, adventure, lots of laughs, and more!
I will choose to live today as a child of the King. I am loved, my eternity is secure, so I can dream. I will dream! Psm 63:4 says, I will praise you as long as I live.
"When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on." ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
FD staff and volunteers, thanks for throwing me a rope with a knot already tied!!!