In Which I Try To Become A Better Human Being, or: Camping.

My name is Kelly, and I'm a dependent human being. (Hi, Kelly…)

It's common knowledge to all those close to me that I'm sort of...lazy. And tired. My family and friends (more commonly known as my minions) have been known to cook for me, to get me water when I ask for it, and to do my laundry when I'm sick all of the time. It's pathetic and embarrassing, but also so funny! For everyone to joke about! And um, really convenient for me.

So when I signed up to go camping in Colorado for a few days, I knew I was going alone, still weak from the past few months years. I was aware of the distinct possibility that I,  Kelly "The City" Bergin, would have to to pack my own bags and actually paddle and camp and do all that stuff. By myself. Without cell phone service to even tweet about the horrors.

(I think most people would be nervous to be stranded in the desert with complete strangers, but I woke up in cold sweats dreaming about having to put together my own tent.)

But I survived. I think I may have even thrived, for a few seconds there. My nickname on the trip became 2.0, because I constantly noted how a new version of Kelly Bergin was emerging. Kelly, 2.0.

There's something to be said for actually stepping out of your comfort zone, instead of just dreaming about it. I talk a lot of shit about ways I am going to change—plans to eat better, go to sleep earlier, exercise, write…but I never actually do it. Instead, I end up eating Fruity Pebbles at 3 am and watching montages of ER's famed couple Carol and Doug on YouTube. (This is totally not happening right now.)

I came back from the trip renewed, motivated to actually make some tangible changes in my life. This was never more apparent than yesterday, when I stood in a place far more foreign to me than nature: the cookbook aisle.

I haven't actually opened Vegetarianism for Dummies yet, and I did just send a panicky text to Gen asking if I could still eat eggs, but I'm confident that my new diet and exercise plan will make me feel better. And although I’ve had this fleeting thought before, I’ve never actually believed that I could feel better. I've only ever known what it's like to be sick and dependent on others for help. Illness is so deeply entwined with my identity that I wonder who I might be without it. I might just be someone who does her own laundry and doesn't use the motto "one life!" as an excuse to drink and accidentally make out with men who have neck tattoos.

I've spent so long stubbornly avoiding change, because I believed that by changing to accommodate my illness, I would not be normal. And for years, that is all I wished to be.

I felt something new as I paddled (okay...floated) down the Colorado River. For the first time in a long time, I felt empowered to gain control and take responsibility for my own life. Peace, in the form of a one way ticket to Los Angeles and a vegetarian cookbook.

And that's all I really want.


Important Things I Learned From My Trip:

1) How to pronounce quionoa. Hint: it does NOT rhyme with granola. Lesson learned.

2) When attempting to moon an Amtrak train that runs parallel to the river, watch your ass on the rocks. I have a bruise on my tailbone the size of Colorado.

3) Colorado is pronounced how it's spelled, not COLORADAAAAA (that one's for you, Mom.)

4) I can go 4 days without Junior Mints, shattering my previous Mint-free record of six hours.

5) Usted is not pronounced YOUSTED.

6) Never ask how many feet sea level is if you want to be taken seriously as an intelligent adult. (Note: It's zero.)


Please consider checking out and donating to Solo Survivors. And thank you to everyone who made this trip possible— especially Tracy Maxwell and Alli Ward. Connecting with other cancer survivors was truly an amazing experience, and I remain in awe of those I met on the trip. Thank you.


  1. Beautiful and heartfelt...you are a survivor.

  2. I have faith that you can do it!

  3. Best post yet! - Maja

  4. Hi!

    Your writing is poignant, and you have so much to say...thank you for sharing so much.


  5. 3.0 - Don't forget you got a well-deserved promotion at the end of the trip. =) It was such a pleasure having you along for the ride, and these posts pre and post trip made my day - along with making me split a gut laughing. I can't help but admit that I was a little concerned about having a non-camping city girl on the trip too (three of them in fact), but all of you were troopers and, you made the trip (and pre-trip shopping) so much fun! Thanks for taking the leap and for sharing your insights. I want to read your book someday soon, so you'd better get cracking. I see the next David Sedaris in your writing.

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