Shout out to Whole Earth Provision Company, a local outdoor store that rocks. They specialize in clothing, footwear, outerwear, travel tools, and nature education from Kerrville to Kilimanjaro since 1970. Their staff was so skillful in helping me select gear I’ll need for the climb, and they were kind enough to give me a discount, too!
I know I will be able to spend my time focusing on training, fundraising, and fighting cancer because of Whole Earth’s generosity—thanks again for helping me get one step closer to the summit!
“Cancer can be beaten. It is beaten every day. It’s a battle being fought in labs, exam rooms, street corners, schools and homes all over the world. We can have a world without cancer. We can change the world. That’s why I’m here.”—Ruel A. Bobet
Another “why I climb.” This one is for Ruel Bobet.
I wrote about Ruel the other day. He was a Texas 4000 rider on the 2012 team. Texas 4000 is the longest annual charity bike ride in the world that began at the University of Texas in 2004. It raises money for LIVESTRONG's cancer programs and services and in the past, has also donated to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas and the American Cancer Society.
I need to make note of how much of a privilege it is to be selected as a rider. Potential riders have to submit an application and go through an interview process. And after one is invited to join, there are fundraising requirements of $4,500 minimum, volunteer and training requirements, and a 100 mile century test prior to departure. Students can participate in the ride from Texas to Alaska only once. I had that honor in 2009.
Ruel was selected to ride with the 2012 team. He was beginning the process of volunteering and training with the team when the unthinkable happened: he suddenly collapsed and was rushed to the hospital, and was diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer in April 2011.
At that time, I had been working as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Texas 4000 ATLAS Ride. This event occurs on the first Saturday of June and is technically the first leg of the trip to Alaska. All cyclists are encouraged to join that year’s team on the first day of the ride from Cedar Park to Lampasas, Texas. The team then gets up the next morning and continues onward for the next 4,000+ miles.
As noted earlier, Ruel was a 2012 rider, and I had recruited him to volunteer at this event. But when I heard the news of his diagnosis, I reached out to him to let him know that I was thinking of him, and that he was relieved of his volunteer requirement. I was concerned that, whatever his treatment plan would be, spending hours on his feet in the Texas heat would probably be exhausting.
He replied back to me:
“I’m doing quite well! Thank you for taking the time to reach out and for your words of support.
I don’t currently know what my treatment plan will be. After next week I should have a better idea of my schedule at MD Anderson in the coming weeks. At that time I’ll be able to sign up for volunteering with some confidence again. I’d love to help out in any way I can.
When I received that email, I was blown away. Namely, his dedication floored me. When I spoke with Lance Pyburn, Texas 4000’s Program Director (and an alum from my year!), he said that Ruel was one of the most dependable riders on the team; he was always turning in his paperwork on time and looking for ways to help out.
Others have corroborated this strength of character, too. Says one 2011 rider:
"Ruel Bobet says he was more excited about his acceptance for the 2012 ride than he was about getting into UT. At first, he dedicated his ride to his father, but the battle has since become even more personal.
In April 2011, Bobet learned he has stomach cancer and joined his father as a patient at MD Anderson. True to the spirit of all Texas 4000 riders, Bobet is driven to ride with his teammates in June: “I support MD Anderson because of the care and support they have provided me and my family,” Bobet says. “The institution’s efforts in care and research have helped countless families and communities. Aiding in these efforts as a 2012 rider is an honor.”
Ruel stayed strong and dedicated even as his body was failing him. I’d ask Lance how he was doing and he would infer that while he was going through some tough rounds of treatment, he was fighting like hell.
But it seemed like his progress would go one step forward and two steps back. And unfortunately, things just kept getting worse. He was placed on palliative care late last year. I’d sit back and wonder how a healthy, fun-loving 21 year old guy could get so sick in such a short time span, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized there was absolutely no sense to make of it. Cancer truly is the world’s cruelest lottery.
Yesterday morning, the 2012 riders got together with the Texas 4000 alumni and held a ride dedication in Ruel’s honor. Due to the weekend errands I had to get done before work, I was sad that I wasn’t able to make it out. But I thought a lot about Ruel over these past few months and prayed for him to get better.
I honestly kept praying for him to be healthy enough one day to know the joy of riding his bike to Alaska with a team who loved him like family.
I hope it’s some small comfort to those who knew and loved him best that I think Ruel will get to ride his bike to Alaska this summer…and the summer after that, and all the summers after that, too. Because the 2012 team and teams thereafter will carry him in their hearts all 4,500 miles and beyond.
The 2011 and 2012 teams have lost such a close friend—a brother. As an alum, it’s a little difficult to put exactly into words the grief that I’m sure many of us feel right now. There’s really nothing else to say other than: I ride for Ruel.
And as a Survivor Summit participant, I climb for Ruel. When I’m 19,000+ feet high and struggling to breathe and stay warm, I will think of his dedication and his brave fight.
"…but actually, I am not going to Africa, and I am going to be running for five+ hours next Sunday. It’s the Austin Livestrong Marathon Challenge, and I signed up last August after getting back from Alaska."
In April 2010, The New York Times’ health and wellness blog, Well, asked readers to share their stories of cancer survival. Over the following weeks and months, more than 1,150 people submitted their photos, creating a collage that depicts people adjusting to the new normal after beating cancer. The stories in this collage inspire me to climb.
This is my next post for my “why I climb” series and is one of many reasons why I’m determined to climb Kilimanjaro with Survivor Summit to fight cancer…
Today I climb for Owen McMasters and all other children and adolescents suffering from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (more commonly known as ALL). I climb to spread the word about the critical shortage of cancer drugs available, in the hopes that businesses, non-profits, and individuals can proactively work together with pharmaceutical companies to resolve this life-threatening issue.
Owen seems like a pretty smart kid, and when you read his story, you’ll see that he’s got a great attitude and is doing everything in his power to fight cancer. Unfortunately, though, this shortage of medication has caused some issues for his treatment plan. Please read on below:
"Two weeks ago my main doctor told me I was doing better than he ever expected. He was honestly shocked with my latest bone marrow biopsy. But in the next minute he told my mom I would likely not be able to undergo my next phase of chemo.
The next phase is high dose methotrexate. I would receive this drug all the time - through an IV in my spine. It is the most frequent drug and the high dose is evidently going to be hard. I was ready for it because it is also what will keep my cancer from returning. It is what will make me live.
My doctor told me drug companies had stopped making methotrexate in the form I needed and that the shortage was so bad no one would be able to get it in the next few weeks unless something drastic changed. He said the shortage had been going on to some degree for two years, but that it was critical now.
I knew it was critical - it was going to affect me and all the other kids in the clinic that day and all the kids in the U.S. who also have ALL.
I asked if we could get it from other countries and was told it isn’t that easy. He also said that the shortage of chemotherapy drugs for kids with cancer was a constant problem and was not just with methotrexate. Six months ago there was a shortage of AraC, another drug I take frequently.
That very day the clinic nurses asked me if I had decided what I wanted for my wish from the Make A Wish Foundation. The people from Make a Wish had visited me the last time I was in the hospital, but I was so sick I only talked to them briefly.
I talked to my parents and told them I would feel bad asking for something to be bought for me but might consider something all the kids could enjoy at clinic or on the children’s oncology unit at Kosair Children’s Hospital.
After I got home from clinic, we researched the methotrexate shortage and found that my doctor wasn’t exaggerating. I decided my wish would be to fix the shortage of chemotherapy drugs so that other kids could get the treatments that they need to be cured of cancer.
I wanted to make the shortage of methotrexate known by everyone who could do something about it. I wanted the drug companies to share my goal of curing my cancer and cancer in lots of other kids by making these drugs, even though they are cheap and might not make as much money as some others.
The FDA has said that methotrexate will be available for now. But this problem is not solved for good. A permanent solution to this problem must be found. I don’t care how the problem is solved, it just needs to be solved.”
Keeping fighting, Owen. I hope for your sake, and so many others’, that we can fix this for you.
The annual Kilimanjaro Marathon will be run in the Moshi municipality this Sunday. This is one of the most popular of the exotic global marathon destinations, and is an unusual mix of rural African highland scenery and top flight international runners. I’m looking forward to visiting the area myself in a few months. But first, I have lots of my own training to do…
In addition to all the other gear I’ll need for the climb, I think I’ll add these amazing shoelaces to the list. The shoelaces are sold by Go4theGoal, a New Jersey non-profit that helps families affected by pediatric cancer. I love that an organization from my home state supports this good cause, and I hope to be flashing these bright colors on top of Africa in a few months.
This is the first post in a series I’m entitling, “Why I climb.” Please read on…
On Texas 4000, we used to do ride dedications daily. Each of the seventy days of the ride, we’d gather as a team in a circle and talk about who we were riding for. Emotions ran high in those moments. Sometimes, I’d get upset about hearing another person’s struggle with cancer, other moments, I’d be happy when I would hear the news that one of my teammates was riding for a survivor. But mostly, the ride dedications made me feel two things: fortunate and humble. I felt like climbing on my bike to ride 80+ miles was small potatoes compared to what so many individuals and families were struggling to do on a daily basis. Simple tasks, such as eating, bathing, and walking unaccompanied are hard for most who are suffering from cancer. Those families, friends, loved ones, and even strangers who were battling cancer inspired me to get on my bike for 4,500 miles. Doing so was the least I could do to help fight this disease.
Over the years, those ride dedications have transformed into a team mantra: “Why I ride.” The miles on the bike, the saddle sores, waking up at 4:30 a.m., and riding through rain, wind, and cold was all worth it when I thought about why—and for whom—I was riding.
I came across a Facebook post the other day from a 2012 Texas 4000 rider’s family. The rider’s name is Ruel (Alexander) Bobet and the person writing the post was his mom. After reading the post, I had that same feeling that I had in those ride dedication circles; I am lucky to have my health and I should use it to make a difference. So, in the spirit of Texas 4000, I’m going to start writing a series of posts with the title, “Why I climb.”
The following story is just one of many reasons why I’m determined to climb Kilimanjaro with Survivor Summit to fight cancer:
"Yes, it has been a long time since I posted an update, but these have been a very hard couple of weeks. I thought I needed time to recover from all that happened, but really, who am I kidding?!
Lately, every day is eventful, we have been going to Drs appointments where the conversations are turning to be not different from each other. The news of impending doom are in every mouth and face we enc ounter.
One email sent to Dr. Phan on Saturday of last week turned into two unscheduled appointments at MDA main campus. One was with the Supportive Care Team, and the other, on the same day, with Dr. Phan.
Alexander’s pain an discomfort from the ascites has increased, the medications for pain were no longer helping, so the Supportive Care (SC) doctor changed the meds, which, at the time, we hoped were going to work.
The ascites is the worse; Alexander’s abdomen is so distended that is causing him pain. His liver is so large and pushing on the other organs, especially the lungs, which is causing him to have difficulty breathing and having the very real feeling of choking.
It has been three nights today that Alexander and I haven’t slept a good hour sleep, we have been moving from one bed to another, to sofas, chairs, recliners, even the floor, looking for his comfort, but there’s not to be because the disease has turned even more evil and is becoming relentless on its side effect and causing wreck on his body.
The three persons taking care of Alexander, Dr. Phan, Dr. Patel, and SC, agree that there’s nothing more they can do for our son, all that’s being done is as aggressive as they can be, and they have all asked us to consider getting hospice again.
Do you understand what this means?! The cancer has NO CURE, they are keeping this chemo treatment for a little while; however, eventually, pretty soon, it will have to be stopped because Alexander’s liver is not detoxifying the meds and everything is staying there, accumulating and poisoning his body!
This is what we are going through minute after minute each day; the noose is getting tighter around our necks, and there’s nothing, anyone can do to help. There’s no treatment, there’s no miracle.
Not only we have to deal with our son’s devastating disease, but Gordo’s new protocol treatment is making him sick. There’s not a morning that goes by that he doesn’t get violently ill, his face is already getting covered with acne-like zits that burst with the force of every time he gets sick. He is still going to work, in spite of what is happening to him.
He is worried about Alexander and about Andrew, who is becoming more and more aware of what is happening to his adored brother; he is worried about me, and sadly, he has to worry about himself.
These things I’ve told you, and many more that I have no time nor desire to discuss, are what is ruling our lives now. I just don’t know how much more I can take from this! I’m tired, I haven’t slept in days, and there’s nothing but dark clouds ahead.
Yes, we have to enjoy the time we have left together; the thing is, Alexander has no longer a smile, Alexander gets no joy out of anything anymore. The pain, the sadness, the wonder of it all, the wonder of how this happened and the questions that always end up being unanswered are taking over his mind and strength.
It is taking my mind and my strength as well.”
In the days since that post, there have been more ups and downs for this family, including a hospitalization for pneumonia. This family and whole Texas 4000 community has been hoping against all odds that Ruel would beat this disease. To know that he and his family are running out of options is really hard.
I’m happy to note that I passed the $4,000 mark in fundraising today! That means I am 40% of the way there. I still have a little less than $6,000 to go until I meet the minimum fundraising requirement, so please donate! Any amounts helps support cancer programs and services at LIVESTRONG. Thanks so much to everyone for the kind words and support so far.
I'm Climbing Kilimanjaro to Fight Cancer. Crazy? Maybe, But Hear Me Out First...
I’m taking on a 19,341 foot mountain in the battle against cancer because there are 28 million people living worldwide with this disease. 28 million. Chances are you know an individual that has faced a cancer diagnosis. I know many. In fact, since losing my grandmother, uncle, and college mentor to cancer, I’m more determined than ever to help others beat this disease, and ultimately, find a cure.
I’m no stranger to testing myself physically in the name of a good cause. I’ve danced for 46 hours for pediatric cancer through Penn State’s Dance MaraTHON, and I rode a bicycle 4,500 miles from Texas to Alaska through Texas 4000 for Cancer. But honestly, I think that those were small feats compared to what millions of individuals and families dealing with cancer have to endure on a daily basis.
Now, as part of Survivor Summit and LIVESTRONG, I’m pledging to continue to challenge myself in crazy—but worthwhile—ways to fight against cancer.
LIVESTRONG is a symbol of hope and inspiration to people affected by cancer around the world. Any amount that you would be willing to give to this cause will help the 1 in 3 men and 1 in 2 women that will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. Please visit my fundraising page to help make a difference for those fighting.
I’ll be thinking of so many inspiring stories of hope, strength, and courage during my expedition! Please share your stories with me, and help me meet my minimum fundraising requirement of $10,000 for cancer programs and services at LIVESTRONG. With your support, I’ll climb Africa’s tallest peak for an amazing cause!
Blogging as a Means of Growing into a Better Person
My name is Lisa. I’m a Penn State (undergraduate) and University of Texas (graduate school) alumna. I’m an active person and I like eating healthy foods, although I have a big weak spot for chocolate. I love riding my bike, creating art, drinking craft beer, running, hiking, being outside, going to museums, and volunteering—specifically, you could say that I’m a big supporter of causes that fund cancer research and programs. I had my first taste of engaging in this good cause when I did a bike-a-thon for St. Jude’s in fourth grade, and I’ve loved service ever since. In 2007, I stood without sleep for 46 hours in Penn State’s Dance MaraTHON to raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund, which benefits families fighting pediatric cancer out of Hershey Medical Center. And in 2009, I rode my bicycle 4,500 miles from Texas to Alaska to fight cancer with a wonderful non-profit organization called Texas 4000 for Cancer.
Most recently, I signed up to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to fight cancer with two amazing organizations (Survivor Summit and LIVESTRONG) on December 31, 2011. Talk about a New Year’s “resolution.”
Since sending out 100-some-odd letters, launching my fundraising page by email, and creating posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+, I’ve been raising a lot of money to meet my minimum fundraising requirement (which goes to support cancer programs and services at LIVESTRONG)…
…Hence, I’ve started this blog to get the word out about cancer awareness, and to keep in touch with the incredible people who have supported me with kind words and generous donations so far.
I’ve had a little blogging experience before with Texas 4000. While I was, at first, pretty hesitant to put my thoughts out in the open on the internet, blogging actually became pretty fun. I know my friends and my family were happy to keep an eye on me, and it also served as a way for me to reveal some small sense of what I was going through during the ride, for example: I’d battle extreme weather and even more extreme emotions (like zipping down graded hills and hitting almost 50 miles per hour on my bike—that was definitely a high; and putting my sore muscles back on my bike saddle only to get rained on for four hours—obviously, that was a bit of a low, but I got through it!). I’d also meet a range of amazingly kind people who helped our group make the journey north. So, the experience of blogging, as a means to stay in touch with my supporters, was definitely a good one.
This time around, I had to create my own blog and I came up with the name for it keeping two things in mind:
1. Well, Kilimanjaro is kind of high in elevation. “Elevated” is a play on that.
2. The word also conveys a sense of being uplifted and happy, and I’m both. Seriously: volunteering and service activities make me a little giddy. I mean, I don’t think I can complain about life when I get the chance to do something as cool as climb the tallest freestanding mountain in the world to honor so many stories of cancer fighting and survival—from friends, family, loved ones, and strangers; you all inspire me to climb.
That’s the long and short of it. I’m embarking on a crazy adventure and maintaining this here little blog to raise awareness and keep in touch. And if it means I can fundraise more money to fight cancer, too, then I’m all for being out in the open. So please spread the word around, reblog my posts as much as your heart desires, and help me climb Kili for an amazing cause…
As I begin to readjust to life after climbing a 19,341 foot mountain, I’m still trying to figure out if I want to keep blogging, or close this chapter of my life. I’m thinking the former—especially because I have big plans: after making it to the roof of Africa, I’m trying to assess if I’m ready to run a marathon, paddle 21 miles, or do some other cool things, too, all in the name of fighting against cancer, and elevating my outlook on life. I want to expand my ability to contribute to society as a healthier, happier, and better person; what better way to do it than to share positive things online with others?
So, please keep up with me on this blog to find out what I’m up to next. Time will only tell, but I hope to keep growing as a person and making the best of any challenges life may throw my way. Stay tuned!