Surviving, Thriving and Surfing, Too.

(Donation link is here, if you don't feel like sifting through my wordy prose: http://teamfd.firstdescents.org/2011/fd/denverrocknroll/dotcom/)

In March of this year, I became a 4 year cancer survivor. In one year, I will reach my 5th year of remission and officially be known as cured. (Ooh, I like the way that sounds...)

Sounds nice, right? Unfortunately, the effects of cancer last much, much longer than that. And coupled with all them other diseases I have, the recovery has been difficult. I've struggled to find the balance between my sick self and my real self. I've tried to meet people who I could connect with, who quite literally understood my pain.

But I never really did. Until a few weeks ago, when I went on a trip with First Descents, an organization for young cancer survivors founded by Brad Ludden.

Their mission statement encapsulates what they do and why they are so awesome, so I shall list it here:

First Descents offers young adult cancer fighters and survivors a free outdoor adventure experience designed to empower them to climb, paddle and surf beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same.

You got chills, right? And FD means it. Our adventure trip was surfing for a week in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I was anxious and worried I would drown. I was sure that I'd suck. 

Which was sort of true--I surfed, but I did not look good. When I stood up for half a second and started shouting in excitement, I fell face down on my board. 

But we cheered each other on: we were constantly taken by surprise. I won't forget one new friend's face when he declared he'd met his goal to stand on a board. The experience, as well as our shared medical history, bonded us tightly.

And the bond holds. During this past week, when I spent 3 miserable nights in the hospital, I had a roster of people to complain to, to empathize with me, to tell me "Go for the extra push of Dialudid." I'd never had that before; suddenly, I was not alone. I am greeted with such support from family, friends and readers but it's always difficult to explain how I feel. No longer.

Going on First Descents allowed me to see what I was able to do physically and expanded my view on relationships. I forgot about my limitations due to lupus and cancer. I was whole, free, complete.

Because this experience so changed my life, I have decided to train for and run a half marathon relay in September with my fellow FD'er, Meghan

Yes, me, whose unofficial Native American name is: She Who Never Runs Unless Body Is On Fire Ow My God My Legs Hurt.

But I am going to run it, and I'm going to do it to support First Descents.

Every survivor deserves this chance I had, this opportunity to see themselves in a new light. Cancer can destroy us, but First Descents is the provider of a new, necessary light . 

Meghan and I, as survivors, still face plenty of physical limitations. But with your support, we know we could really make a difference for FD. If we meet our goal of $3,000 total, more young adults will get to go to camp and have the invaluable experience we had.

Please consider following along as Meghan and I write about our laughable training process (help!) on our blog and tell everyone you know about FD.

Another way to help, aside from emotional support and/or dozens of rosaries said in my knees honor, is through a monetary donation. Say, what you'd spend at Starbucks. Or Costco, if you're so inclined.
Your donation goes directly to FD and helps another young adult embrace their challenges and live a fuller, freer life--even with cancer.

The site to give is here: http://teamfd.firstdescents.org/2011/fd/denverrocknroll/dotcom/

Thanks for your consideration of this worthy cause. And thanks, for your constant support. Illness can be a lonely and sad place, and you guys have pulled me through time and time again just by commenting or tweeting me a hello. So thank you.

And I swear, I'll never ask for money again. Unless your name is Mom, Dad or Grandma.
Love and thanks,
Kelly "Dotcom" Bergin


  1. After reading your post I have come to realize how to become strong and most importantly retaining that strength in hard times. I am impressed by your positivity.