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“Stand tall and trust your edge”

“Stand tall, keep your weight downhill, and trust your edge.” 

– Karl, my wise snowboarding instructor.

Last week, I had the pleasure of spending time in Squaw Valley with Send It. While the entire week was incredible, the moment that suck with me most was the Thursday afternoon snowboarding sesh. 

The preceding days were spent on the bunny slopes where Carlos, Sarah, and I practiced things like weight distribution and turns. Having not snowboarded for a while, it took some time for me to relearn how to move through space on the board. Initially, I fell – I fell a lot actually, and became somewhat frustrated at my body’s inability to perform movements that used to be second nature. Gradually, with coaching from Karl, my control of the board increased along with my confidence. While I still fell down occasionally, I learned to fall with grace, rest if needed, and pop back up to continue moving downhill. 

As Thursday afternoon was coming to a close, we had a choice to make. We could either take the tram to the bottom of the hill like we had done previous days, or we could do a full mountain run. Against Karl’s better judgement, Carlos and I decided to #sendit down the mountain. 

Things started well enough, but we soon encountered a section of the mountain we had not seen in practice. It was steep and slushy. I couldn’t control my board – I could barely stand up. I spent more time on my knees in that section than I would have liked. Somehow though, I was able to make it to a rest area. 

I rested for a while and wanted to give up. But, we were past the point of no return. The only way to get off that mountain was on my snowboard or via a ride with the rescue team. And there was no way I was going to be rescued. So, I stood up and pressed forward. 

Eventually my groove returned, and I was so far ahead of Carlos and Karl that I lost them. As the bottom approached, turns became tighter and narrower. I was somewhat fearful at the thought of having to navigate those turns without the guidance of Karl. That fear was quickly dismissed, however, when I remembered I had all the tools within me to safely traverse the turns ahead. Karl’s teachings from the week echoed in my mind as I proceeded – 

“Stand tall, keep your weight downhill, and trust your edge.”

And that I did. I shredded those last few turns and soon enough, I was at the bottom of the mountain looking back with amazement and joy at what I had just accomplished. What seemed impossible only 15 minutes earlier was now a reality. 

Many thoughts ran through my mind in that moment. One was the quote by Nelson Mandela which says,

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Another thought was how my trip down the mountain that day was like a metaphor for my cancer journey. That journey began with doctors coaching and guiding me on what to expect. I didn’t fully know what I was in for, however, until I was in the middle of it. I learned to listen to their guidance. I learned to rest when tired. I learned that not everyone who began the journey with me would be there at the end. I also learned that no matter how bad things seemed, I always had to get up and press forward knowing that a better day was coming. 

There’s nothing more incredible than the feeling of standing at the bottom of a mountain reflecting on the journey you’ve been on over the past six years. On January 24, 2013, I was lying in a hospital bed in Houston recovering from a stem cell transplant. On January 24, 2019, I conquered a mountain on a snowboard in Tahoe. 

I went on the Send It trip to connect with other cancer survivors in an outdoor adventure setting. I left with a nice little reminder that I can do all things as long as I stand tall, press forward, and trust my edge. 

Thanks for that, Send It. It was exactly what i needed.