Over this past summer I attended a First Descents kayaking camp in Vail, Colorado and it was possibly the best experience I have ever had. Even though that trip was two months ago (I can't believe it has been that long!) I still think about it daily. Today has been one of those days where it has been on my mind constantly and for some reason I had an "ah-ha!" moment about something that has been bugging me so much.
I haven't been able to get one question off my mind since I applied for the FD camp... why does kayaking, of all sports, seem to heal us and empower us the most, especially after cancer? I have thought about it and thought about it and I have come up with several semi-satisfactory answers but nothing really seemed to hit the nail on the head. Then today it hit me like a brick... and I was surprised by the answer that I found. When cancer strikes it takes our sense of adventure away from us. We are bound to beds and hospitals, prisoners of i.v.s and medications, and we lose our sense of life... at least for a short while. I think everyone is effected very differently in this matter... in my situation I was bed bound for roughly four months and then had several months of recovery after that, making it impossible for me to do any physical activity for over half a year. To some that might not be a big deal, but it just about killed me. Some people might never lose their energy and some might lose it for years. Everyone is different. But I think regardless of how physically weak cancer makes you a sense of adventure is still lost. You wonder how long you have left to take part in these adventures, how long you have to see the things you want to see and do the things you want to do.
Kayaking embodies all that we miss out on or fear we will never get to experience. Sky diving is adventurous but it takes little physical strength and it is over in a few minutes. Same with bungee jumping, base jumping, etc. Snowboarding and skiing are fun and exciting but they take a considerable amount of skill and practice to really be able to enjoy and not everyone ends up being good at it (I for one am terrible). This is where kayaking is different. It takes enough skill to make you proud of being able to accomplish it but it doesn't take too much skill to where you have to practice for weeks or more to enjoy it. Kayaking also gives you that sense of risk every time you approach a rapid or hit that wave, and when you make it you can't help but get excited. Kayaking also allows you to see things you might otherwise never see. It combines the rush of sky diving, the views of hiking, the fun of snowboarding, and the self satisfaction of competing because even though it's not a race you have exceeded your own goals. Kayaking makes you feel alive in a way that no other activity really does. At least this has been my experience.
So thank you First Descents for giving me a week where I felt more alive than I have in my entire life. There is so much more to say about this camp but in short, the people I met and the things I experienced made me want to chase after that feeling of wholeness that I found there for the rest of my life. I will never again feel like I can't be complete or that I can't thrive in life. That week proved to me that I can.