In 2012, Mary Flynn was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I was 28, was fighting fire for the Forest Service, and the best shape of my life, no family history, had been eating all my ‘greens,’ thinking I was living a healthy life and then, BAM, diagnosed with cancer,” shares Flynn. “It completely blindsided me.”
While in a mental fog of what her “new normal” had become, Flynn had a lumpectomy followed up by chemotherapy and radiation.
“Even though I had gotten married less than a year earlier and I had an extremely supportive husband and inlaws nearby, it was extremely isolating time,” she says. “I didn’t know anyone who had been diagnosed as a young adult and the entire experience was incredibly depressing and left me so alone.”
Now 35 years old and living in New Castle, Colorado, Flynn says it was First Descents that made her feel like she was not alone and put her in touch with people she could relate to through her fight with cancer.
It was First Descents that made her feel like she was not alone.
“My husband first saw a news segment on First Descents,” she says. “With firefighting, I was too busy to go on a summer trip. A couple years later I finally put my mental health first, went on a “FD1” trip and it honestly changed my life. I felt like I found my tribe!”
Flynn spent a week kayaking in Jackson Hole with many like-minded people who wanted to shed their cancer identity and embrace life.
“Or ‘out living it’ as we like to say,” shares Flynn. “I finally could joke with people about all things cancer and not get blank stares from friends or sensing your friends weren’t sure if it was ok to laugh about my cancer jokes.”
Flynn says the experience gave her a new sense of adventure and build her confidence back.
“I cannot speak highly enough about this wonderful organization,” she says. “If you know someone who is a young adult that was or is impacted by cancer, put them in touch with First Descents. It truly was life changing for me.”
The annual Man of the Cliff fundraiser for First Descents is coming up this weekend in Avon, Colorado. This will be Flynn’s fourth year participating.
“Flannel, beer, LumberJack and Jane stuff, beards plus lots of competition and heckling, it is so much fun,” she says. “It’s a two day event and for everyone — you don’t have to be a body builder to compete. Having prior experience with an axe or bow might give you bonus points in the competition, or at least less heckling by the two hilarious announcers (that are alone worth coming for)! Plus ALL benefits go to First Descents, so it’s a win-win!”
The 10th Annual Man of the Cliff benefitting First Descents will be held at Nottingham Park in Avon, October 13-14, 2018. Man of the Cliff is a two-day community festival centered around rugged Lumberjack-style games. This year also marks the inaugural Man of the Cliff benefit concert on Saturday evening following the games. All funds raised support First Descents’ adventure programs for young adults impacted by cancer. Man of the Cliff welcomes more than 200 competitors and 3,000 attendees for a weekend of outdoor activities, live music, delicious food and drink, and tons of family fun.
Man of The Cliff attendees can spectate or participate in any of the eight individual events — Axe Throw, Archery, Keg Toss, Speed Wood Chop, Hammer Throw, Pulp Toss, Caber Toss, Spear Throw — or the team events of Cross Cut Saw and the ever-popular Tug of War. Families are welcome as we have a kids area with a jumpy castle and games of corn hole throughout the event area. Corporate teams can also face off in the new corporate competition category. All events are adjusted to accommodate the “Weekend Lumberjack” for two days of revelry and good-hearted competition.
Learn more and register at www.manofthecliff.com.