By the time I read that in this excellent series of articles about First Descents, it was too late to back out. Not that I would have, of course, as I like to embrace my motto whenever possible (read: “doing the stupid things, so you don’t have to”). But it was probably a good thing I was too busy getting my house ready to sell to google or read up about “whitewater kayaking” or I might have driven myself insane. Well, more insane than I already was with the house thing.
Anyway. The first order of business with First Descents is picking out or getting a nickname, which in my case is pretty obvious. Several of us are getting picked up by Wildflower at the Portland airport, so we start discussing this.
Wildflower: Do you have any nicknames?
Me: Well, I AM known far and wide as Tasha the Triathlon Goddess.
Wildflower: There we go. Goddess.
Me: That works.
What can I say, sometimes things just fall into place as they should.
* * * * * *
We all head over to the lodge, which is a wonderful place owned by an amazing woman who lives next door, and which is nestled in the woods and has a perfect view of Mt. Hood right off the deck. There are 9 of us campers at this retreat for First Descents, which puts together these adventure trips for cancer survivors. Other than conferences, this is the first cancer retreat of any kind I’ve gone to, so I have no idea what to expect. Lots of kumbayaing? Who knows. All I know is that some of us are sitting on the deck, chatting, and I make a stellar first impression by suddenly starting to yell: “AH! AH! AHH! AAAHHHHH! SHIT!!!!”
There’s an insane hornet that’s gotten between my toes and is stinging the crap out of me. As a group, however, we’re nothing less than completely prepared, as I have heavy-dosage painkillers, Navigator has lavender oil to put on it, and Mountain Goat instructs me to soak my foot in Epsom salts, which I do. In spite of the burning/stinging/shooting pain, I’m happy, because this is totally in keeping with my Schleprockian existence. Stung by a hornet on Day One? Of course! Bring it on!
* * * * * *
Another thing we do that afternoon is go over our medical history with Special Sauce. I’ve filled out the form and don’t have too much to add, but when she asks me if I have any concerns for the week, I ponder. If I think about it, I might have something like the following blurt out of my mouth:
“Well, I’m worried that I might not fit in the kayak, or be able to get out of it, or will in general look like a bug stuck on its back trying to do either of the above. You see, I used to be thin, pretty, athletic, capable, but cancer treatment and cancer drugs have put on all this weight which is almost impossible to take off, no matter how little I eat or how much I exercise. So now I’m fat and ungainly and I don’t even know who I am or how to deal with this me.”
But even though I know Special Sauce would understand perfectly every word I’m saying, I stay quiet – because I don’t even know where to start….or end.
* * * * * *
But then I’m over it, because that evening we go to get outfitted at Wet Planet, where we learn we’ll be kitted up like Staypuff Marshmallows in order to stay afloat. I sense that my biggest triumph may just be in getting this stuff on and off every day, because it’s like a wetsuit multiplied exponentially. In fact, there IS a wetsuit, which is just the bottom layer – but being the triathlon superstar that I am, that should be the easy part. The Wet Planet people are in the running with the FD folks for “nicest people on the planet,” so I’m starting to think there might be a possibility I won’t drown during the week.
Of course, I’m thinking this as I’m hobbling around with a pack of ice on my foot thanks to the hornet sting, so clearly, all bets are off.