June 23, 2010

E-Mail from a First Descents Participant

Below is an e-mail received today from a recent First Descents' participant. This says it all:

From: Lemon Drop
Date: Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 9:57 AM
Subject: The First Day of the Rest of My Life... Thanks, FD :)

Two things happened yesterday that could not have happened without FD,
and if we're friends on Facebook, you already know, but here it is for
the rest of the fam...

Before FD, I resisted the last two steps of my "treatment": being
tested for the BRCA (breast cancer) genes, and getting my chemo port
removed. Why? Because I was living an ugly cancer-colored cloud over
my head that kept asking, "What if I tested positive for the gene?
What would that mean for my future, for my hopes to start a family one
day? What if I had it and passed it onto my children? What if my
cancer came back - shouldn't I just keep my port?" I was getting
through life, but I wasn't "living" at all - I was just waiting for
the day when my doctor would say, "Sorry, kid - you have to put your
life on hold again."

When I got back from camp, though, I realized I couldn't live a "half"
life, didn't WANT to live a "half" life, and I summoned up the courage
to schedule a surgery for my port and get tested for the gene. I told
myself, if the news came back I was positive, so be it, my FD family
would be there to support me through whatever happened, but it was
time to get on with my life.

This morning, I'm happy to say I woke up without a port (my surgery
was yesterday), and knowing I am BRCA-gene free (my test results also
came in yesterday - negative!). I'm sitting here in my living room,
and it feels like the first day of the rest of my life!! :)

In revamping the FD YouTube Channel, I came across the video for the
Bryan McKenna Spirit Award, and there's a part in it where Brad says,
"I'm not just living in the sense that I'm getting through life; I'm
living in the sense that I get to live life." For the first time in
two years, I felt like that - like I GET to live life. And you know
what? It feels pretty good!

When the doctor told me my results yesterday, I burst into tears, not
just because I was happy, but because I realized not everyone gets
that news. Not everyone walks out of his office happy, grateful,
feeling like they just won the Triple Crown. I cried for the women -
women I KNOW - who are where I was just 48 hours ago - just getting
through life, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Yesterday, my other
shoe dropped, and you know what? I'm going to be just fine. When I
dried my tears, I made a promise to myself that I would never again
take waking up in the morning for granted.

I'm starting to lose track of the times I've thanked you all for being
a part of this experience that is First Descents, for not only
teaching me to climb mountains that seem insurmountable, but for being
there for me with an encouraging word ("Der you go," comes to mind) or
a memorable picture (thanks, Bear!), or even a "like" on a Facebook
post - ;) - but here's one more - THANK YOU for reminding me that
every day I'm here is a gift.

- Lemon Drop