Tuesday, April 10, 2012

In Memory of Nickname

I just wanted to post this video of Nick to honor his memory and his amazing life. You can view his blog and his story here.

Upcoming Documentary on First Descents

So amazing. Brought back a ton of memories and gave me chills. Out living it, y'all!!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blessed & Humbled by First Descents Love

"This weekend isn't about the fancy ball, or the dress, or the over the top stilettos and larger than life hat. It's about the way it feels to be surrounded by some of the most important and influential people in my life. It's the feeling of gratitude that comes from sharing space with incredible human beings who love one another unconditionally. This is First Descents. (This is First Descents Out Living It: The Dressy Version). This is the one family dinner that you wouldn't dare to miss...especially with Brad Ludden sitting at the head of the table. This is FD LOVE." ~Beth Silverman

I am exited to be in Vail this weekend for the Annual First Descents Ball. Yes, it is a ball, but it is so much more than that. If you have attended a First Descents camp, you know how life changing it is. At the ball this weekend, we gather to be thankful for the life we continue to be able to live and spread the love that has been given to us by the First Descents family.

More pictures to come!

If you are a young adult (or you know someone who is) between the ages of 18 & 39, and you have ever heard the words "You have cancer," you should apply to attend a free week-long adventure therapy trip with First Descents. To apply, visit the First Descents site and click on the Apply Now button. You won't regret it!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lessons from My Father

My father passed away on January 24, 2012. We had a Celebration of Life for him last night at the university music school where he taught computer music composition since 1982. 

At the Celebration of Life, I said shared these thoughts about my dad:

Since my dad passed away, we’ve received countless messages about him, his life, and his legacy as a musician, artist and teacher.  We’ve heard him described with the words ‘genius,’ ‘mentor,’ ‘iconoclast,’ and ‘maverick,’ all of which I think are true, but probably would have made him slightly uncomfortable. To me, of course, he was just my dad. However, there is no doubt that his commitment to his work and the creative process was absolute. Growing up, I remember that many times, it consumed him.

He gave his energy to his students and his profession, but he also gave tremendous energy to his family. This energy he gave came to me in the form of some of my most important life lessons. If you asked my dad what these important lessons were, he would probably say it was that he taught me how to be a good liberal, and not to care what the establishment thinks, but that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.

His relentless pursuit to cut through all the bullshit & noise in this world taught me not just to listen more and speak less, but to truly hear people, music and my own inner voice. To me, he was a living example that the best things in life are not things, but experiences both positive and negative. Through his experiences, he showed me the value of creativity, humility, and self-reflection.

My dad and I had a special knack at getting under each other’s skin. Because we frequently waged verbal battles of epic proportion, he taught me how to fight only for what really matters, to compromise when there is one to be had, and to never forget to say I love you.

At times in my life when I would express doubts in my abilities as a writer or a photographer, he would tell me that I am a damn professional. He taught me, as he did so many in his life that the reward for following your passion truly outweighs the price paid for all of the stumbles along the way.

I love you dad!

Friday, March 9, 2012

This is a good place to be

It's been a while since I posted any details about how I am medically. In January, I finished up with 3 years of Zoladex injections (which kept my estrogen low by inducing menopause). About a year ago, I finished up a clinical trial for a pill that targeted cells with HER2 neu receptors. Little by little, my safety blankets (treatment protocols) are being taken away from me. Yes, this is because I am closer and closer to the big 5-year No Evidence of Disease mark. Now, the only thing I do to try to limit any risk of recurrence is take my daily dose of Tamoxifen.

The further away I get from the experience, the easier it is to forget the realizations that diagnosis brought me. I'm struggling a bit because having cancer taught me so much about living. I don't want to forget those feelings and the associated lessons that shook me to my core. Getting cancer is like being instantly given the ability to zoom out from earth. You can suddenly prioritize in new ways given this view from space. I don't want to lose that perspective and get bogged down by being well back on earth

I still see my docs every 6 months for mammo and bloodwork, but I finally reached a place in life after cancer where I don't think daily about having had cancer in some way. Even when I take my Tamoxifen every day, I don't really think about cancer.

This is a good place to be and uncharted territory for me.

I am reaching a place where advocacy is becoming more comfortable for me. Other young women are reaching out to me for perspective when they are diagnosed or find a lump and don't know what to do.

Despite all the sadness from losing my dad 6 weeks ago to cancer, I am feeling more whole than ever on my journey through the abyss that is life after cancer.

This is a good place to be.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Advice from a Fierce YA BC Survivor

A close friend of mine just published her second book about cancer survivorship. So proud of April Capil for having the courage to put it all out there.

This is her first book Recipe for Lemonade. You can buy a copy from the links below, or she also offers the chapters free on her blog: Team April

Her second book is Life After Lemonade.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Check me out in Lexus Magazine!

The most underserved cancer group is those in their 20s and 30s. At First Descents Camp, former pro kayaker Brad Ludden helps these fighters thrive.

IT STARTS AS a low hum but grows into a roar as Brad Ludden, 29, and his friend, nicknamed “Tailz,” drift toward the rapids on the Colorado River. Tailz’s mouth is pursed with the determination of an athlete. Muscling his paddle, he works to keep the bow of his blue-and-white kayak pointed downstream in the confused water. With the chiseled jaw of a college quarterback, Ludden, 29, calls out guidance: “A couple strokes on your left! Now paddle on your right! That’s it, Tailz!” His own strokes look effortless, as he steers his own kayak smoothly down the rowdy white water—backwards.

Tailz’s real name is Neil Taylor, a 31-year-old former schoolteacher from Vermont. About two and a half years ago, Taylor was hit with the news that would change his life. The diagnosis: a brain tumor the size of an orange.

Surgery proved successful, but when Taylor woke up in the recovery room, he was blind. “Before I went blind, I was a total athlete, and I loved extreme sports,” he says. “There was such a huge void in my life because I can’t do that stuff anymore…. It’s a huge loss.”

But then a friend told Taylor about Ludden and his First Descents, a camp designed to teach young adults with cancer how to master kayaking. Ludden, from Montana, learned to paddle at age 6. A natural athlete, he later won the Junior National Championships and earned a silver medal at the Junior World Championships in 1999. Ludden also began running international expeditions, logging first descents (first kayak navigation on a white-water river) throughout Africa. He also began appearing on magazine covers and inked a lucrative sponsorship deal with Nike.

About that time, at the height of his career, Ludden’s Aunt Lori, in her mid-30s, was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the news rocked Ludden’s close-knit family. “Our way of coping was to start volunteering at a local pediatric oncology summer camp,” he says. Ludden’s mom helped with cooking, but Ludden didn’t know what to do—until he spotted a nearby lake. “My only way to communicate was kayaking, so I took all my kayaks up there and taught these kids how to paddle,” Ludden recalls. “And I just saw it working. You just saw it in their faces.”

Ludden was so excited by what he witnessed that he sought out volunteer opportunities at an organization that teaches kayaking to cancer patients. “But there wasn’t one,” he says. “I thought, that just doesn’t seem right. This is what I can give to someone. I was like, man, I have to do this.”

So in 1999, at age 18, Ludden founded First Descents. His plan: focus on campers ages 18 to 40 (like his Aunt Lori), because even though more than 70,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer annually, this age group is the most underserved population of patients. Ludden moved to Vail, Colorado, where he worked feverishly during the kayaking off-season, organizing and raising money. In 2001, Ludden and friends hosted the first camp in Vail, teaching kayaking to 15 young adults with cancer.

The responses from the campers, their parents, and their physicians were astounding. It seemed Ludden, with zero medical experience, had stumbled upon a neglected part of the treatment process for cancer patients.

Though funding was tight, Ludden kept the program free for all participants. It continued growing, and in 2011, First Descents will offer 26 weeks of camps with 375 free spots in Vail, Montana, and Oregon, including a new rock-climbing program. To date, First Descents has served 825 young adults with cancer.

“It really picked up my spirit,” says Tailz. “I love kayaking, but it’s much deeper than that. Out of the 18 people in my camp there were five others with brain tumors. We’d all sit around the fire and laugh about things that you can’t laugh about with people who haven’t had cancer. It was so great to be around those people.”

Last year, Ludden retired from full-time pro kayaking to be Chief Mission Officer for First Descents, helping with fundraising and programming, and collecting his first paycheck after a decade of volunteering.

“They say every athlete dies two deaths: the day they retire and the day they die,” says Ludden. “But for me, retiring was like being born again. I’m more passionate about my career at First Descents than I ever was about being a professional athlete. And that’s saying something, because I really cared about pro kayaking.”

“To me, kayaking rivers is a metaphor for surviving cancer,” says camper Bethany “Marhaba” Winsor, a 30-year-old breast cancer survivor. “You can hear the running water before you can even see it. You don’t know what’s coming, but you know you’re on this path. It’s the same thing as being pulled through your diagnosis. All these people are telling you what to do, and you have no control over any of it. But just like when you come up on a rapid, you’re supposed to lean forward into it, and paddle on through. After First Descents, that became my mantra in life: lean into it, and paddle through.”

Read the full article: http://drivers.lexus.com/lexusdrivers/magazine/articles/Lexus-Lifestyle/First-Descents