October 2022 was my 25th year of survivorship and I did 25 things to celebrate. Uncomfortable things, musical things, tasty things, and historical things. Jumping out of a plane was on my list of 25. I knew Skydive Alabama existed but never considered a jump because my former roommates needed me to be alive and whole. And jumping out of a plane seemed like a death wish, a-la D.B. Cooper.
Ten things to know and do before your dive:
- You MUST sign the waiver declaring that Skydive Alabama is not responsible for your death or injury or responsible for anything that might go wrong. I didn’t have a problem with that since my DNA had already gone awry and tried to kill me decades ago.
- Dress for the weather: wear sneakers and layers in the fall. I was so cold on the airplane I was shivering.
- BUY THE BEST PHOTO AND VIDEO PACKAGE. You’ll want to remember this day and this moment.
- Choose a beautiful time of year to jump. Seeing the colors of the turning trees, blue sky, and the sun reflected on water was amazing.
- BE BRAVE!! If you’re reading this, you survived Covid as well as all the things that went wrong in your life. Jumping out of a plane is nothing to fear. PLUS, your tandem instructor wants to live just as much as you do!!
- If, like me, your life depends on your glasses, you’ll need to wear goggles during your jump that Skydive Alabama sells for $20.00, so bring cash. Also, bring an extra pair of glasses just in case.
- Wear sunblock (the air is thin and the UV rays are intense) and do some stretching or yoga before your jump.
- Bring extra clothes just in case you shit your pants………… Just kidding!!!
- If you have a bit of asthma, like me, remember to use your inhaler as instructed, before your jump.
- Take a moment and breathe and enjoy yourself. You’re about to fly!!!
My sister-in-law Cynthia and my friend Oliver came with me as my cheering squad. I checked-in, weighed-in, watched the video and met Jimmy, my tandem instructor.
Jimmy was thorough and patient. He told me how he’d need to touch me to tighten my harnesses, I needed to squat at the door of the plane before the jump, to keep my thumbs in the loops when we were in the air, he’d tap my shoulders when it was time to release my thumbs and wave at the camera, I needed to relax into him during the fall, and how to breathe when I entered the sky.
I forgot all of those things! I met my image-maker, Jan, who interviewed me and also explained what he’d be doing.
I was jumping with several other people both tandem and solo. We all piled and scrunched into this tiny plane and it started to take off. I remember the moment the plan left the earth and we ascended. I looked around the plane at the various people, looked out of the window as my friends became smaller, and looked into the sky that I’d soon meet. Someone opened the sliding door and the first few people leapt. We continued to ascend, people continued to jump, and suddenly it was my turn. Jimmy tightened everything, reminded me what to do, and we inched forward on the bench towards the door.
Suddenly I was at the open door, 14000 feet in the air, feeling the rush of the freezing air sucking at my lungs, teetering on the edge of the sky, feeling the security of Jimmy behind me, only remembering to lean into him and tuck my legs towards his butt. There was no nervousness, just the anticipation of being weightless and and the pull of gravity.
And then we jumped.
I remember the roar of the wind, cold against my face, and my struggle to gulp air or close my mouth. I remember seeing Jan on my left and then in front of me. I remember seeing the sky meet the earth on the horizon. I remember Jimmy tapping me to do something but forgot that I was supposed wave at the camera. I remember a sudden yank and the chute was released and we were floating in the sky.
Jimmy had me take some deep breaths, pinch and blow my nose to unclog my ears, and allowed me to steer the chute a bit while watching the earth from on high. I felt free, and light, and powerful. I was never afraid I’d fall and die. Death is nothing compared to round after round of Adriamycin. But I also knew I would be fine and this would be yet another experience of my 25-year survivorship journey.
I’ve had some really incredible travel experiences: visiting Paris, my dream city; watching a buffalo crossing in Colorado; traveling to Ireland when I started celebrating my Cancerversary. Every October I do at least one thing I didn’t think I’d live to do. Jumping out of an airplane might seem like the biggest thing I’ve one this month but it isn’t. The biggest, greatest, most adventurous thing I’ve done this month is to keep living, to keep sharing my story of survivorship, and to encourage people to celebrate theirs.
Should YOU jump out of a plane? Absolutely!! It’s an incredible way to celebrate yourself, celebrate your survival, celebrate an event in your life. Will I jump again? Absolutely, in the spring when I can see the blooming flowers and leafy trees.
Skydive Alabama is located at 231 County Road 1360, Vinemont, AL, 35179 and they operate Friday through Monday. You can book your jump here, and you never know: you might jump with me!!