Brianna Hirsch

Cancer survivor / 20 years old / kiteboarder! Help me give others the chance to get their lives back after cancer like I did through kiteboarding!
  • My Goal:
  • $10,000
  • Raised So Far:
  • $9,750
  • # of Donations:
  • 75
$9750 of $10000 goal
+
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Welcome to my fundraising page!  I am so blessed to say, “I am a survivor!”  My cancer story started long before I ever even knew what cancer was. I had just turned 7 when my family’s world was turned upside down with my mother getting told she had a golf ball-size tumor behind her right eye.  This was on April 10th, 2000.  Her cancer was such a rare and highly aggressive cancer that it pulled her away from my 4-year old brother and me.  My mom, who had always been there for me, suddenly had to disappear and fly far away to Memphis for all kinds horrifying surgeries.

Every time my mom would come home she looked so scary to me.  I didn’t understand what was happening, but I knew her life was changing and so was mine.  When my Mom came home from that place called Memphis without her eye it was so painful to look at her.  It was worse when other people looked at her.  I hated when people stared at her, it made me so angry and I became defensive for her.  My brother’s friends made Cyclops jokes and it got to the point where he would get so angry and feel so embarrassed to be seen with her.  I felt so many terrifying feelings, but since my mom is a therapist she made sure that we all went to therapy, which not only helped me understand what was happening but also helped me express my feelings about it.  

We all got used to my mom’s disfigurement and I have always been proud of her courage to wear her altered, but still very beautiful face with confidence. But no matter how brave she is I know it’s hard for her sometimes.  The years passed and time seemed more and more precious in our family so we traveled every summer on a lot of adventures and did our best to take in the world.  After my mom got better we began to have exchange students live with us every year. That experience was like living an adventure everyday -- discovering new cultures through my exchange brothers and sisters – we even got to visit them in their home abroad.  I didn’t know just how blessed I was at the time: my mother was alive and we got to live such a full life.  I think – no, I’m sure; I sort of took it for granted.  I even complained about “having” to be in Europe for 6 weeks!

 

I am the fourth generation in my family to be diagnosed with cancer.  On April 10th, 2011, ten years to the day of my mother’s diagnosis, I got a first-hand taste of just how precious life REALLY IS.  While having my junior prom dress fitted, I suddenly passed out.  The next thing I knew I was in an ambulance.  My world had just turned upside down and seemed to come to a grinding halt.  Hours later I learned I had a massive tumor sitting on my heart, which was filling up my whole chest and crushing everything between my heart and my throat.  My mom told me 2 years later that that 1st night in the hospital she was told had I not passed out in the fitting room and rushed to the hospital, the tumor would have crushed my trachea in another day or two.  I am really glad I didn’t know that then, it was surreal enough to have everything suddenly change.  At that time, I was a junior in high school, on the lacrosse team, and had just fallen in love for the first time; the simple life of a girl in high school just starting her life, or so I thought so at the time.

            The next day they pulled a quart of fluid out from around my heart and the doctors told us I had cancer: Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.  Honestly, the first thought to cross my mind was about loosing my hair.  I suppose because my mom was a survivor I really never considered the possibility of dying.  Does anyone when they are 17 years-old?  We all think we’ll live for the next 50,000 years when we are 17 years old.  My boyfriend sat by my side and held my hand when they put the pick line through my arm. I was so lucky to be in love at the time and because he was so supportive, being in love helped me “float” through much of the first months of treatment.  I was able go to my prom with all my hair. And, the Prom itself was AMAZING because the entire whole school voted for us Prom Queen and King. I could not believe the show of support. I was never so happy, yet so close to death. Then reality hit and my hair started falling out.  It was terrible, but my mom planned a head-shaving ritual with all my friends and they each shaved a small patch of hair from their heads, my boyfriend and my father shave their heads, dad kept his head shaved through my entire illness.  

The next two years were very long and I had undergone many various courses of chemotherapy, antibiotics, steroids, hair loss, spinal taps, blood transfusions, bone marrow extracts, pneumonia, collapsed lungs, and many other physical complications and breakdowns. I was blessed to have two remarkable doctors, Dr. Porter in Albany, NY and Dr. Altura in Providence, RI. They along with the entirety of both peditric oncology units changed the whole experience and made everything seem a bit easier. I always looked forward to seeing everyone on my weekly hospital visits. I missed most of my senior year in high school due my weakness from all the drugs.  However, through all this I was able to maintain my grades and was accepted in Fall 2012 to Salve Regina University honors program.  I started classes and my hair had just started to grow back.  However, during the first week of college I went into liver failure and was in the hospital again, this time for two weeks.  My hair started falling out all over again, which confused my doctors and scared all of us.  My first year of college and I was at risk of not being able to attend at all.  The whole ordeal made me wonder whether I could truly consider attending college that year.  Going through everything had seemed so much easier in while in high school. Now it all seemed bigger.  But I recovered and completed my freshman year with a 3.8 GPA, all while undergoing intensive chemo. 

Here’s how I discovered kiteboarding.  One day, to my and my family’s complete and utter surprise, the MAKE-A-WISH Foundation contacted me about well, “making a wish.”  

The MAKE A WISH Foundation is nothing short of what its name promises: grants wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses.  Because I was under 18 years old when diagnosed, the foundation indicated I could wish for whatever I wanted.  I immediately held the image of the blue seas and the white seaside houses of Greece.  I wanted pure rest and relaxation so I could try to find myself again after everything I had been through.  They instantly planned the entire trip perfectly and seamlessly, and my mother, father, brother and I left for a 10-day trip to Greece on July 5, 2012.   Here’s where it gets exciting - After three days in Athens, we boarded a ferry to the island of Paros. While on the ferry I happened upon an ad for a kite boarding school.  I had never even heard of the sport, yet I instantly knew I wanted to DO it.  For the next seven days I took lessons in the crystal blue waters of the Aegean Sea.  The moment I got up on the board I knew this sport was something I wanted to do throughout my entire life.  I think all of us know that feeling.

Since then I have been so fortunate to continue my love for and addiction to kiting. I’ve even kited in Spain and in Cabarete, DR.  Coming from a small town in upstate New York, I knew I had to find a place I could kite during this summer.  And amazingly, things came together pretty quickly after I discovered Kitty Hawk Kites, a kite boarding school on the outer banks of North Carolina.  I was able to get a job with them at their kite boarding resort in Waves Village.  Daily access to wind and water has helped me to progress and as rider and as a person, which is bringing me closer to the person I want to be and the great life I feel is still ahead of me.  Everyday I feel I get a bit closer to finding myself again.

There have been many times when I have questioned what my life would have been like had I not become sick with this dreadful and often fatal disease.  I can honestly say I do not regret my diagnosis in the slightest for a number of reasons.   First, my relationships with my family and friends all changed in great ways. There was a noticeable bubble of love surrounding me throughout the whole thing.  Another reason is the internal changes I experienced.  I am such a different person than I was just 3 years ago.  I have completely different hopes, goals, and dreams.  However, it was and still is the kite boarding that does not make me regret one second of what I went through.  I would not have found it had things been otherwise.  In a way I even feel blessed because at a young age I have found a true and lasting passion in this life.  I truly believe kite boarding has the power to inspire and help others that are experiencing what I had. 

While fighting cancer, one is not in control of their life and especially what is happening to their body.  We do everything to stay alive and this usually involves beating up and breaking down our bodies.  This for me was one of the most challenging phases of my illness.  Just watching how my body changed and reacted to my treatments day-to-day was extremely difficult.  Between the hair loss, weight gain and weight loss, and many random and unexpected issues, it was a truly horrible experience and I hope one day no one will ever have to suffer as I did.  Kite boarding brought me back to life in every way possible. First, I had the feeling of being in entire control of my body. To go from no power to full power was the most thrilling experience for me. Never before had I realized my potential.

I really wish to take everything that I have been through and share it with others to inspire positive thoughts, hope and determination to get through their illnesses or illnesses of their family and friends.  And yet I know there are people out there who have had experiences or are undergoing such pain that I cannot even imagine.  

When I heard about the upcoming Kiteboarding4Cancer event in Hood River, OR. this month, I instantly knew that it was something I wanted to be part of because I know first hand the healing power of kite boarding.  At first, I did not think I would be able to go.  But as chance often plays an all too important role in life, I crashed my kite one evening while attempting a simple backroll.  It was a cold and windy afternoon and the sun had already set. My kite deflated and I had to be pulled into shore by a friend.  He happened to know the woman sitting at the dock we landed on and she kindly invited us in to warm up.  After talking with her for hours, I began to tell her about my cancer experience.  She was so moved by my story and she instantly offered to help me get out to Hood River for this incredible event.

I could not be more excited and more thankful.  This opportunity has suddenly opened up so many ideas and possibilites for my future as a kite boarder – and a survivor!  I am – just days later - actively planning to organize camps to teach survivors to kite by next summer.  Will you help me get there?

It means so much to have the level of support that I have. Love to you all, xoxo!

Brianna

 

 

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The Cause
Brianna Hirsch is fundraising for 2013 Kiteboarding 4 Cancer benefiting Project Koru.

 

Welcome to my fundraising page!  I am so blessed to say, “I am a survivor!”  My cancer story started long before I ever even knew what cancer was. I had just turned 7 when my family’s world was turned upside down with my mother getting told she had a golf ball-size tumor behind her right eye.  This was on April 10th, 2000.  Her cancer was such a rare and highly aggressive cancer that it pulled her away from my 4-year old brother and me.  My mom, who had always been there for me, suddenly had to disappear and fly far away to Memphis for all kinds horrifying surgeries.

Every time my mom would come home she looked so scary to me.  I didn’t understand what was happening, but I knew her life was changing and so was mine.  When my Mom came home from that place called Memphis without her eye it was so painful to look at her.  It was worse when other people looked at her.  I hated when people stared at her, it made me so angry and I became defensive for her.  My brother’s friends made Cyclops jokes and it got to the point where he would get so angry and feel so embarrassed to be seen with her.  I felt so many terrifying feelings, but since my mom is a therapist she made sure that we all went to therapy, which not only helped me understand what was happening but also helped me express my feelings about it.  

We all got used to my mom’s disfigurement and I have always been proud of her courage to wear her altered, but still very beautiful face with confidence. But no matter how brave she is I know it’s hard for her sometimes.  The years passed and time seemed more and more precious in our family so we traveled every summer on a lot of adventures and did our best to take in the world.  After my mom got better we began to have exchange students live with us every year. That experience was like living an adventure everyday -- discovering new cultures through my exchange brothers and sisters – we even got to visit them in their home abroad.  I didn’t know just how blessed I was at the time: my mother was alive and we got to live such a full life.  I think – no, I’m sure; I sort of took it for granted.  I even complained about “having” to be in Europe for 6 weeks!

 

I am the fourth generation in my family to be diagnosed with cancer.  On April 10th, 2011, ten years to the day of my mother’s diagnosis, I got a first-hand taste of just how precious life REALLY IS.  While having my junior prom dress fitted, I suddenly passed out.  The next thing I knew I was in an ambulance.  My world had just turned upside down and seemed to come to a grinding halt.  Hours later I learned I had a massive tumor sitting on my heart, which was filling up my whole chest and crushing everything between my heart and my throat.  My mom told me 2 years later that that 1st night in the hospital she was told had I not passed out in the fitting room and rushed to the hospital, the tumor would have crushed my trachea in another day or two.  I am really glad I didn’t know that then, it was surreal enough to have everything suddenly change.  At that time, I was a junior in high school, on the lacrosse team, and had just fallen in love for the first time; the simple life of a girl in high school just starting her life, or so I thought so at the time.

            The next day they pulled a quart of fluid out from around my heart and the doctors told us I had cancer: Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.  Honestly, the first thought to cross my mind was about loosing my hair.  I suppose because my mom was a survivor I really never considered the possibility of dying.  Does anyone when they are 17 years-old?  We all think we’ll live for the next 50,000 years when we are 17 years old.  My boyfriend sat by my side and held my hand when they put the pick line through my arm. I was so lucky to be in love at the time and because he was so supportive, being in love helped me “float” through much of the first months of treatment.  I was able go to my prom with all my hair. And, the Prom itself was AMAZING because the entire whole school voted for us Prom Queen and King. I could not believe the show of support. I was never so happy, yet so close to death. Then reality hit and my hair started falling out.  It was terrible, but my mom planned a head-shaving ritual with all my friends and they each shaved a small patch of hair from their heads, my boyfriend and my father shave their heads, dad kept his head shaved through my entire illness.  

The next two years were very long and I had undergone many various courses of chemotherapy, antibiotics, steroids, hair loss, spinal taps, blood transfusions, bone marrow extracts, pneumonia, collapsed lungs, and many other physical complications and breakdowns. I was blessed to have two remarkable doctors, Dr. Porter in Albany, NY and Dr. Altura in Providence, RI. They along with the entirety of both peditric oncology units changed the whole experience and made everything seem a bit easier. I always looked forward to seeing everyone on my weekly hospital visits. I missed most of my senior year in high school due my weakness from all the drugs.  However, through all this I was able to maintain my grades and was accepted in Fall 2012 to Salve Regina University honors program.  I started classes and my hair had just started to grow back.  However, during the first week of college I went into liver failure and was in the hospital again, this time for two weeks.  My hair started falling out all over again, which confused my doctors and scared all of us.  My first year of college and I was at risk of not being able to attend at all.  The whole ordeal made me wonder whether I could truly consider attending college that year.  Going through everything had seemed so much easier in while in high school. Now it all seemed bigger.  But I recovered and completed my freshman year with a 3.8 GPA, all while undergoing intensive chemo. 

Here’s how I discovered kiteboarding.  One day, to my and my family’s complete and utter surprise, the MAKE-A-WISH Foundation contacted me about well, “making a wish.”  

The MAKE A WISH Foundation is nothing short of what its name promises: grants wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses.  Because I was under 18 years old when diagnosed, the foundation indicated I could wish for whatever I wanted.  I immediately held the image of the blue seas and the white seaside houses of Greece.  I wanted pure rest and relaxation so I could try to find myself again after everything I had been through.  They instantly planned the entire trip perfectly and seamlessly, and my mother, father, brother and I left for a 10-day trip to Greece on July 5, 2012.   Here’s where it gets exciting - After three days in Athens, we boarded a ferry to the island of Paros. While on the ferry I happened upon an ad for a kite boarding school.  I had never even heard of the sport, yet I instantly knew I wanted to DO it.  For the next seven days I took lessons in the crystal blue waters of the Aegean Sea.  The moment I got up on the board I knew this sport was something I wanted to do throughout my entire life.  I think all of us know that feeling.

Since then I have been so fortunate to continue my love for and addiction to kiting. I’ve even kited in Spain and in Cabarete, DR.  Coming from a small town in upstate New York, I knew I had to find a place I could kite during this summer.  And amazingly, things came together pretty quickly after I discovered Kitty Hawk Kites, a kite boarding school on the outer banks of North Carolina.  I was able to get a job with them at their kite boarding resort in Waves Village.  Daily access to wind and water has helped me to progress and as rider and as a person, which is bringing me closer to the person I want to be and the great life I feel is still ahead of me.  Everyday I feel I get a bit closer to finding myself again.

There have been many times when I have questioned what my life would have been like had I not become sick with this dreadful and often fatal disease.  I can honestly say I do not regret my diagnosis in the slightest for a number of reasons.   First, my relationships with my family and friends all changed in great ways. There was a noticeable bubble of love surrounding me throughout the whole thing.  Another reason is the internal changes I experienced.  I am such a different person than I was just 3 years ago.  I have completely different hopes, goals, and dreams.  However, it was and still is the kite boarding that does not make me regret one second of what I went through.  I would not have found it had things been otherwise.  In a way I even feel blessed because at a young age I have found a true and lasting passion in this life.  I truly believe kite boarding has the power to inspire and help others that are experiencing what I had. 

While fighting cancer, one is not in control of their life and especially what is happening to their body.  We do everything to stay alive and this usually involves beating up and breaking down our bodies.  This for me was one of the most challenging phases of my illness.  Just watching how my body changed and reacted to my treatments day-to-day was extremely difficult.  Between the hair loss, weight gain and weight loss, and many random and unexpected issues, it was a truly horrible experience and I hope one day no one will ever have to suffer as I did.  Kite boarding brought me back to life in every way possible. First, I had the feeling of being in entire control of my body. To go from no power to full power was the most thrilling experience for me. Never before had I realized my potential.

I really wish to take everything that I have been through and share it with others to inspire positive thoughts, hope and determination to get through their illnesses or illnesses of their family and friends.  And yet I know there are people out there who have had experiences or are undergoing such pain that I cannot even imagine.  

When I heard about the upcoming Kiteboarding4Cancer event in Hood River, OR. this month, I instantly knew that it was something I wanted to be part of because I know first hand the healing power of kite boarding.  At first, I did not think I would be able to go.  But as chance often plays an all too important role in life, I crashed my kite one evening while attempting a simple backroll.  It was a cold and windy afternoon and the sun had already set. My kite deflated and I had to be pulled into shore by a friend.  He happened to know the woman sitting at the dock we landed on and she kindly invited us in to warm up.  After talking with her for hours, I began to tell her about my cancer experience.  She was so moved by my story and she instantly offered to help me get out to Hood River for this incredible event.

I could not be more excited and more thankful.  This opportunity has suddenly opened up so many ideas and possibilites for my future as a kite boarder – and a survivor!  I am – just days later - actively planning to organize camps to teach survivors to kite by next summer.  Will you help me get there?

It means so much to have the level of support that I have. Love to you all, xoxo!

Brianna

 

 

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About

The Campaign:

2013 Kiteboarding 4 Cancer

How to participate as an athlete in KB4C. Fundraise for entry: Start a fundraising p

The Organization:

Project Koru

Project Koru enriches lives through community and the outdoors as a way to move forward after cancer...

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