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Mari Rosales

Mari RosalesI was diagnosed with breast cancer at 29. The first reaction was always astonishment, followed by the always reliable “You’re too young.” Clearly I wasn’t too young but my age did help me deal with all the changes cancer would bring into my life. I had a wonderful support system, comprised of family and friends, co-workers and students I taught. I was surrounded by love 24/7 but I was in a world of my own. At the cancer center where I received treatment I was ALWAYS the youngest patient. The support groups were for people who were at least 30 years older than me. As much as my family and friends wanted to share my experience, the fears and struggles and pain were mine alone to bear. At least that’s how it was for the duration of my treatment. It wasn’t until I discovered First Descents that I realized I could have friends who KNEW and UNDERSTOOD and HAD BEEN where I was. First Descents brought me close to some of the best friends I could ever have made. We shared war stories and compared medicine bottles, showed each other our scars and tattoos commemorating milestones such as one or two or three years cancer free. The friendships I made and the freedom I felt while attending camp is something that can’t be described. It’s a feeling of freedom and companionship, it’s the peace that comes with sharing something so personal and painful that unless you’ve been there you’ll never understand. I tell everyone I can about cancer camp and how it saved my soul and made me realize I was and always will be bigger, stronger and more powerful than any fear I may have about facing life as a cancer survivor.

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