Living

Cancer patients conquer fears with adventure sports

Published 3:02 PM ET, Tue November 29, 2016
Share
01_10 Brad Ludden01_10 Brad Ludden
1 of 9
Top 10 CNN Hero for 2016 Brad Ludden started First Descents to give young patients some "victory over their cancer," after watching his aunt battle the disease. BENJAMIN RASMUSSEN for CNN
First Descents hosts free weeklong outdoor adventure camps for young adult cancer fighters and survivors based around kayaking, surfing and rock climbing. BENJAMIN RASMUSSEN for CNN
Each year, more than 70,000 young adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer. BENJAMIN RASMUSSEN for CNN
By the time Brad Ludden was 18 years old, he had tackled nearly 100 first descents -- kayak trips down a stretch of river no one has successfully paddled before. BENJAMIN RASMUSSEN for CNN
Since 2001, Ludden and his group have brought these transformative adventure experiences to more than 3,000 people. BENJAMIN RASMUSSEN for CNN
The First Descents program gives each participant a nickname for the week. "It's the name of them as a kayaker, or a climber or a surfer. It's not the name of them as someone with cancer. And so it's an opportunity for a fresh start," Ludden said. BENJAMIN RASMUSSEN for CNN
First Descents' camps take place at picturesque locations, where young adult cancer fighters and survivors challenge themselves and connect with others who have battled cancer. BENJAMIN RASMUSSEN for CNN
To Ludden, the goal of First Descents is to inspire transformation in the lives of campers. "It's that important reminder that this life, it's really fleeting," he said. "With that knowledge, we have this obligation to go out and live as fully as possible." BENJAMIN RASMUSSEN for CNN
First Descents has also cultivated local adventure communities for participants to continue to bond with cancer fighters after their camp ends. BENJAMIN RASMUSSEN for CNN