Kristin “Queens” Haq is no stranger to physical challenges. When she was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 32, she was committed to moving forward – and First Descents is what made that possible. An organization dedicated to providing young adults affected by cancer with outdoor experiences, First Descents has changed countless lives in the 16 years since its founding. “First Descents was so pivotal in my healing after cancer, more so emotionally than physically,” Queens shared. “It challenged me physically, but the emotional healing that took place afterwards was incredible and something that everyone around me noticed pretty quickly. My friends, my coworkers, my husband, my neighbors – everyone noticed that it brought me back to who I was before cancer just ripped my life apart.” Read on to learn how she walks the talk.
Queens heard about First Descents via a message board shortly after finishing cancer treatment in the fall of 2014. With a nickname inspired by the New York borough where she was born, raised, and resides, Queens attended kayaking camp in Tarkio, Montana, in August 2015. She quickly earned her FD nickname because, in her words, “I guess I was showing a lot of hometown pride early on when getting to know my fellow campers!” Prior to the trip, Queens had never been kayaking in rapids. She didn’t quite know what she was getting into, but she couldn’t have predicted how impactful the experience would be.
To be able to look around and see, ‘Oh my god, everyone in this room right now either had cancer, has cancer, or has somehow been impacted by cancer’ – and yet we’re all gonna go down to this river, and we’re all gonna go over these freaking Class III, Class IV rapids and just barrel down the river.’
After her experience in the camp, Queens wanted to give back. She began planning her Out Living It Project – “where community, creativity and philanthropy collide” – to raise funds and awareness for First Descents. Queens landed on an OLIP that’s anything but pedestrian: she chose to walk the entire perimeter of Manhattan in a single day.
“I loved that by walking the perimeter, I’d be along the waterfront the whole way – an homage to my river kayaking trip, if you will,” Queens explained. “I also wanted to do something crazy – I mean, who decides to walk 32 miles in one day?! I was diagnosed at 32, and I felt like there was some significance in the correlation of miles equalling the years of my life before cancer happened. Coupling my love of NYC with being on the waterfront all day, sprinkled with a wacky goal of actually doing this all in one day was my inspiration.”
Fresh from the experience of her OLIP, Queens was already thinking ten steps ahead. She served on the planning committee of the first-ever FD Brooklyn Bash this past September, which she’s hoping to turn into an annual event. In her free time, she makes nail polish (she’s playing around with creating First Descents–inspired colors and donating a portion of the profits!), attends Broadway shows (one of the perks of her ticketing company job), and plays the drums (loudly). These days, Queens is working on creating space in her personal life to spend time exploring hiking trails in the Catskills.
Movement is a big part of Queens’s life, and she sees it as a give and take: “Movement to me just means moving in a positive direction – whether it’s mentally or physically – but also being okay with sometimes taking a step back and letting your body or your mind take care of itself and heal.” At the end of the day, First Descents is what helped her keep moving and heal in the wake of cancer.
“An experience like that is priceless,” Queens said. “To walk out of something after only a week and just feel like, ‘Oh my god – I’m someone in my 30s, and I had cancer but I have all these other things in my life.’ You’re so focused on cancer, cancer, cancer that you tend to not notice all the great things going on around you.”
FluidStance is a proud partner of First Descents: as part of Pledge 1%, we’ve committed 1% of sales, 1% of company equity, and 1% of employee time to First Descents. For more information on their mission to bring movement into people’s lives, visit First Descents.