As the Director of Programs for a non-profit cancer organization, Whitney has had a lot of sick friends. Although it's been hard to see many of them pass, she feels lucky to have had the opportunity to meet them. Read on to learn more about Whitney and her story.
"It must suck to have a lot of sick friends..."
I get that a lot. I've worked for First Descents
, a non profit that provides free outdoor adventure experiences for young adults with cancer, for nearly 7 years. So yes I have had a lot of sick friends. And a lot of healthy friends who used to be sick and still battle the gazillion ways that cancer never really goes away. I've lost a lot of friends, too, and yes that sucks. The most painful losses are stuck in freeze frame memories for me.
I remember the first time I met Allan.
He was the Executive Director of First Descents, and I was begging for a job. He was cryptic and wanted to talk about books. He ordered a giant calzone for lunch. [freeze frame]
I remember the last time I saw Allan. He was physically and figuratively a sliver of his former self. He was playing this weird game where he wasn't dying, this wasn't the last I'd see him, and cancer hadn't actually won. I was either playing this weird game where I believed him, or I actually really believed him. I’m not sure which. He was steeping a bag of lemon-ginger tea, in and out, in and out, in and out. [freeze frame]
I remember the first time I met Nick.
I picked him up at the airport, and he was this tall, skinny 18 year old from Utah wearing white sunglasses. He was an amazing combination of teenage-cool-kid and old soul. I loved everything about him on the spot, and Nick was instantly the kind friend you would call a 'kindred spirit,' if 'kindred spirit' didn't sound so lame. [freeze frame]
I remember the moment I was told that Nick had died. There was nothing to say, no speech that would help me. [freeze frame]
I think about all the friends I've lost to cancer every day.
But not in an 'I've had a lot of sick friends' kind of way, and not even in a 'screw cancer' kind of way. Just in a 'man, thank god I knew that guy' kind of way. And I run through the freeze frames over and over - just to remember.
I've also met some of the most beautiful, hysterical, talented and amazing people through my work supporting cancer survivors. And they're making new freeze frames for me every day - saying hilarious things, stepping outside their comfort zones, embracing life and inspiring all of us at First Descents to continue providing the right outlet for fighters and survivors to realize that cancer doesn’t define them.
One leg? Sure doesn't stop him from rock climbing.No boobs? All the better to paddle out on that surf board. No idea who the hell you are anymore or what the hell just happened? Oh, hey, these 14 other people too…
Freeze frame. Freeze frame. Freeze frame.
In 2013, First Descents will host over 40 adventure programs across the nation and beyond. These week long and weekend adventure experiences are designed to allow young adult cancer fighters and survivors to climb, paddle and surf beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same.
To learn more, get involved, or sponsor someone on the waitlist, please visit FirstDescents.org.