FDX Update… 2018!

Hey everyone! It’s been awhile, enough so that people have stopped asking about my trip. So I thought it appropriate to post an update!

In January, a few of the First Descents 2017 trips were posted. There weren’t as many as I was hoping, and the only one I was semi-interested in was to the Northern Italian Alps. I researched the agenda, continued to check the page, and ponder it for about a month. It sounded great, but not as exotic as I would have hoped, and like a trip I could take on my own. Though I couldn’t define exactly where I wanted to go, this one just didn’t quite feel right.

After about a month, with no new trips being posted, I talked myself into signing up for this trip to Italy. I could start planning, and start getting excited. I went to the website to sign up, and it was full!

A little disappointed, a little relieved, and a little panicked, I had to resolve that it might for the best, and something more appropriate would be posted later in the year. I resigned myself back to routinely checking the page for new trips.

A couple weeks later, there were still no new trips posted. But an updated sentence that they are actively planning a trip in 2018 to New Zealand! I jokingly emailed the organization, asking if I could get put on a wait list for this 2018 trip. Sure enough, they have one started!

So, unless something amazing gets added to their 2017 line-up, I’ll be making plans to visit New Zealand in 2018! I’m a little disappointed to not be taking the trip while I’m 30, but get to look forward to it for much longer.

Thank you so much again to everyone who supported me on this goal. It’s truly amazing how much love I’ve felt over the last year!

FD Moab Update

I also want to plug in a link to read about one of my Moab Cancer-Camp friends. She underwent her 3rd(?) brain surgery earlier this month, and her husband and her have been sharing such beautiful posts all week. Check it out here!

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I saw a bee

In January, over lunch, a bee flew and bumped into my driver-side car window. In January. I can’t stop thinking of the oddity of a bumble bee in Nebraska in January.

I’m one to always say, pay attention when coincidences align, and small details follow you. They are generally trying to tell you something.

In response to my less-than perfect CT Scan results, I retrieved an old bracelet from my dresser and put it back on my wrist. The one that was given to me on my birthday when I was going through chemo. The one the waiter took off his own arm and put on mine as a reminder of strength and love from one survivor to another.

Coincidentally later that week, the string bracelet that was put on my wrist on top of a mountain by another survivor during my Moab First Descents trip fell off. Symbolically, this is supposed to be a good thing, meaning I no longer need spirits to protect me. It should be a sign that makes me ecstatic.

Maybe it’s because of the timing of putting a more permanent bracelet on, which makes it seem like it’s more of a “bringing in the big guns” alignment rather than a cleanse of the added forces that have been following me around.

I had a follow up with my general practitioner about some symptoms I’ve had for a couple months. The CT Scan results pushed me over the edge of being able to put concerns at ease. At first, she brushed off my symptoms as nothing out of the ordinary. After talking a bit more, she wanted me to get an ultra sound to get a clearer view of my pelvic region.

I’m hoping it’s just scar tissue that is continuing to interfere with my body’s normal functions. But I can’t help but think of this scar tissue slowly growing. For lack of a better comparison, taking over my lower region like a cancer.

The day I saw that bee I was between appointments, heading to the women’s clinic for my ultra sounds and to sit amongst all the young couples who are expecting.

A couple quick search results yield mentions of bee’s strong ties to fertility. Making sure your life is fertile by enjoying the “nectar of our efforts”. One specifically calls out:

“Bee reminds us to take the honey of life and make our own lives meaningful and fertile.  In other words, bee tells us to enjoy what we do, whatever it may be”

First Descents announced three of their trips for 2017. One in particular I’m considering; a 10-day, multi-sport adventure in the Italian Alps. The main reason I’m hesitating, is because I was hoping for something a little more out of the ordinary. I could see myself planning a similar trip on my own to a similar location. I wanted my FDX trip to include something that would push my own limits just a bit more.

This Italian Alps trip would land me back in the states with less than a month until my next 6-month check in, which will now include the MRI to verify the size of my lymph nodes.

Maybe all these signs are telling me to embrace these next six months, because my next results might change my life for the worst. With my bracelet set to arm me with beefed up protection (note that it’s a dainty piece featuring several pastel jewels), and the bee to tell me to enjoy the nectar as it flows right now.

Then again, other bee meanings focus on setting dreams high and fulfilling them. The bee tells us to move past our physical limitations.

 

Technically speaking Bee should not be able to fly – it’s designed all wrong aerodynamically. From a spiritual perspective this speaks of our limitations and how to move past them successfully. It’s doubtful that Bee knows it shouldn’t fly – it simply DOES, and so can you.

The bee is here to tell me keep pursuing what I dream of. My beefy bracelet will help remind me of where I’ve been, and that I continue to move past those limitations. I know the survivorship odds, but I will simply BE HERE, and enjoy the nectar while I’m doing it.

The bee is here to represent both of our atypical physical characteristics, and our abilities to go against what science dictates.

My 3-Year Scan Results

Wanted to send out a quick post on my CT Scan yesterday. While it wasn’t the good “everything looks great here” conversation that usually happens, I’m trying to keep a rational head.

Several lymph nodes in my pelvic region had increased in size since the last scan. It wasn’t enough to order immediate follow up, but it was concerning enough that they will have me so an MRI in July rather than the standard blood work results.

Sometimes lymph nodes get inflamed when they are fighting an infection or other bad stuff in the budy, so I’m convincing myself that my system is just doing what it’s meant to do to knock out something existing in my body.

From a cancer perspective, often time lymph nodes are the first indicator cancer has spread, as the cancer cells get into the nodes and start growing. So, growing lymph nodes could mean growing cancer.

I’ll simmer on this for a while, if I do start feeling very sick or tired like I’ve experienced in the past, I can ask for a MRI sooner to make sure things aren’t getting out of control.

So, not the best news I was looking for, but nothing life-altering here.

#nodapl

How You Can Help The Standing Rock Sioux Fight The Dakota Access Pipeline: view the Huffington Posts list. 

I was awake from 2-4 am last night – the second time since Nov. 8 – feeling scared and disheartened for the future climate of the country. The North Dakota Access Pipeline has been weighing heavily on my mind; there’s so much that I should be doing to help but don’t know how.

Does anyone else remember the series of social posts that have moved through our feeds which defended Native Americans earlier this year? Andrew Jackson removed from the $20 due to his actions toward Native Americans, and the sudden out lash at Christopher Columbus Day due to his role in claiming America for white settlers.

These inhumane, unforgivable, and unjust actions are no longer history – they are happening right now. The Access Pipeline a continuation of centuries of European settlers going against their word to Native Americans. Selfishly taking what they want and forgetting their promises. Here’s a USA Today article of the history of this land, the several milestones that have occurred and diminished land promised to this tribe.

I would like to believe that in 2016, our country can respect the promises we’ve made. That we will choose people over profit. Respectability over power.

I look at our upcoming leader, who from what I can tell, is the exact opposite of these qualities. I fear that the outcome of this situation is only a glimpse of the major step backward from the humanitarian progress our country has made. Between the Nazi-like actions and words tied to our president-elect, and this taking and destroying land promised to Native American tribes, I ask again as I had so many times this month, how did we get here?

As we look toward the holiday weekend, please consider the irony of us gathering around to celebrate the settlement of America, as we are continuing to take more and more from the reservations that barely have anything left. As we curl up with our computers or haul armfuls of “good deals”, think about the people sleeping in tents, being soaked in freezing water, fighting for the little they have left as our greed continues to take more. “Our country is so in debt, this will bring jobs”… at what human and moral expense? We look toward thievery to fulfill our “money problems”, on the same day known as the biggest shopping day of the year. Shame on us all.

Consider taking 10-20 minutes out of your day to take action. Click over to their Amazon wish list, which asks for things like gas-masks and mats to sleep on. Make a call to a representative, or simply make a donation.

Read what you can do here – we can all do something.

First Descents Founder Nominated as CNN Hero

CNN is hosting a voting competition for ten selected ‘2016 heroes’. The winner’s charity will receive $100,000.

Brad Ludden, the founder of First Descents, which I am currently fundraising for, is one of those top ten. Here’s an exert of his profile, read the whole story here.

In kayaking, a “first descent” is when someone successfully paddles a section of river that no one has ever paddled before.

By the time Brad Ludden was 18 years old, he had attained close to 100 of them.

“Every time you come around a corner, you’re the first person to see it from that perspective,” said Ludden, now 35. “You feel a lot of personal transformation and growth through that process.”Today, Ludden is giving that life-changing experience to young adults with cancer—helping them face down their fears and realize they’re not alone.

“When you’re a young person with cancer, it’s so isolating,” said Ludden, who watched his own aunt battle cancer when she was 38. “All your friends are getting married, having children, starting jobs and living life. Here you are fighting for yours.”

Read the whole story and vote for Brad here.

So much can happen in a week

Looking back, I realized he sent me a Snapchat Friday, just one day before he died. I don’t know what time, or even what it was of, but he doesn’t Snapchat. Life just moves to fast to stay on top of it all. So much can happen in a week – from a snapchat Friday, to going missing, to being found dead outside his home, to Friday, one week later, being buried outside of his childhood church.

Life just moves so fast.

I think the strangest part of it all, is that no one he’s close to knows who I am. We shared a strong friendship for a couple years, but not one that ever allowed us into each other’s circles. My roommate met him once, but other than that, should the tables be turned, I don’t know that anyone in my life would know who he was either.

I showed up a little before the ceremony, ushers were frantically pulling out chairs in the back entrance for all the people crowding in. I quickly claimed a seat in the very back row, behind the entering groups of his coworkers and fraternity brothers. One usher looked at me and asked, “Just one?” I nodded yes, and he replied, “I have one seat inside, it’s right at the front.” With a breaking face and cracking voice responded, “No, I’d rather sit in the back.” I could barely control myself, I couldn’t imagine being in the center of all the emotions with his family, with an upfront view of him the entire time.

Maybe it was a sign, that through the years I was still important to him and he wanted me up there. That I did fit in amongst the people I’d never gotten a chance to meet.

I just wanted to hide.

I have to question if this is normal, a part of growing old, that people around you die, all the time. In the last two and a half years, I’ve lost 4 friends near or younger than 40: a murder, two cancers, and now a suicide. A coworker announced this same week that he has early stages of Multiple Sclerosis. Is this what’s a head for the ‘lucky’ ones who get old?

The church was full, with cars lining the gravel road up the hill to the church. I thought to myself as my heels dug into the muddy gravel on the chilly walk, “The only time all your family and friends are ever really together is a funerals and weddings.” It’s a tragedy that all these people, all the love and fun stories, are only brought together in these two scenarios. One of which you don’t even get to experience.

I’m angry, as I am when I’m robbed of people I care about too soon. However, I’m driven now, more than ever, to have my party. I don’t like to call attention to myself, but it’s important to gather the people you love. I want to see my people I love while I’m still here.

Please join me on November 20, from 2-4 in Lincoln for my 30th birthday party.

I love you all, let’s celebrate for the sake of life. To force love and happiness into this place where sorrow is constantly at your heels.

Read about my plans for the year I turn 30.

Testing my nerve (damage)

Today I found my first grey hair. At least, I think I did. My hair is too fine to confidently determine. I saw a short strand this morning in the sun, and found the same short piece tonight. Either it’s white, or very very light blonde.

When I saw is this morning, I was ecstatic. “I’m getting old! I’m still having new experiences! I get to live through these changes!” I thought to myself as I drove through traffic, late to work with the windows down listening to Kanye West. I find the irony that this discovery was made while in a moment of feeling like a teenager.

Coincidentally, this monumental discovery was made on the same day I’ve finally mentally committed to the location and date to my 30th birthday. (Sunday, Nov. 20. Stay tuned).

I’m so close to 30! I don’t know that there is really anything between me and my celebration now. Well, other than my poor ability to plan events and actually make these commitments. But ya know, the small stuff.

I’ve also started granting myself gifts. I’m not a huge birthday person, but I’m not holding back this year. I’ve started violin lessons. Ultimately, I want to play fiddle, but need to learn the basics of the instrument before I can hone in on a specific style.

It’s exciting, it’s calming, and I only know two notes.

Admittedly, I’m nervous for how far I can get. For the most part, I’ve accepted that the nerve damage from chemo to my hands and feet have recovered as much as they probably will. I’ve accepted this as my new normal – my feet still regularly tingle, and I honestly don’t know how much I am not feeling in my hands. I know when I’m touching something. Sometimes I can feel textures, often times I can’t.

I’m scared I won’t be able to feel the strings.

At this early stage in lessons, I’m still just learning to hold the instrument and how to move. At some point, I will need to learn how to hold the strings. I never really had the conversation with my instructor, where I told her that 2 years ago I suffered enough nerve damage and loss of touch that it was difficult for me to type, and that I would regularly loose shoes that weren’t strapped to my feet. I’m nervous I won’t be able to tell how many strings I’m touching or where, only that I’m touching something.

But it’s my present to myself. I remember the first night I fell in love with the fiddle – it was at a Trampled by Turtles concert almost five years ago. Their fiddle player is amazing live. Watch this video.

Since then, I’ve had other encounters: I’ve seen this same band several times, and drug my friends to the Nebraska Fiddle Championship (sounds way cooler than it was). My church had a Bluegrass band play one morning in the last month or so, and it ignited my fire.

Also on this first day of my grey hairs and party planning commitment, I received an email regarding an open spot for a 2016 FDX trip. It’s not one that I want to go on, but it was just one additional factor to align towards pushing me to my 30th.

Haven’t read about my big birthday plans? Well, I’m still working on my 30th birthday bucket list, but you can read about my fundraising goal for First Descents.

60 days to go!