“That’s what hammered it home, that I had the disease,” Conor says about his experience with chemo. He went into his experience at First Descents—surfing in the outer banks of North Carolina—not knowing what to expect, worried that it would consist of sitting in a circle and being forced to share emotions. Instead, he encountered a natural, open environment where he and his fellow campers could focus on movement and physical activity as a mode of re-empowerment.
There was nothing like physical movement, getting out there and doing something, to remind Conor of his strength and abilities. “To ride that first wave all the way in, reach the top of a big rock face, to run your first rapid—to me, it’s like, ‘I still have this,’” he says. In addition to the physical activities the campers were immersed in, the program provided them with a phenomenal network of support that Conor describes as one of the most valuable parts of his First Descents experience.
“Even now, years out of my first First Descents camp experience, I’m still in contact with those strangers from all over the country that I spent the week with in North Carolina,” Conor says. “Every time one of us has a scan or a scare, we’re in contact and there for each other.” Conor’s involvement with the program has also allowed him to continue providing mentorship to other young people going through the same experiences as they fight cancer.
As he fought his disease, Conor found that his experiences at First Descents allowed him to stay strong—both mentally and physically. “I’ve always been really active, but with First Descents, it just kind of accentuates that and inspires me to be more active and continue to be active in my daily life,” he says. “Sometimes movement and being active gets pushed to the side a little bit.”
Movement continues to be a vital part of daily life for Conor, who bikes or walks everywhere and has organized a bike tour through the plains of Northeastern Colorado as part of his job in the office of Colorado’s Governor Hickenlooper. The “Pedal The Plains” bike tour brings an economic stimulus to small communities and teaches 1,500 riders about local food, agricultural processes, and the importance of being healthy.
“Movement can manifest itself in so many different ways, and a lot of people get huge enjoyment from some kind of movement,” says Conor. “For me, I don’t know what I would do without it.”
FluidStance is a proud partner: we’ve committed 1% of sales, 1% of company equity, and 1% of employee time to First Descents.