Today I opened up my inbox and found an inspiring email from one of my teammates, Amy Bartlett. I hope she doesn’t mind that I feel compelled to share part of it with everyone who reads my blog…
Amy is a kickass cancer survivor and she has done amazing things with LIVESTRONG—like running the NYC marathon. Now, she’s taking on Kilimanjaro with the Survivor Summit team. With less than a month to go until we leave, all of us have been scrambling to get our immunization shots, equipment, visa paperwork, and individual $10,000 fundraising requirements met. The minutiae of all these tedious little tasks can understandably cause many of us to forget why we climb. And I’ve definitely been guilty of letting the logistics of how overpower the reasons why.
But as Amy pointed out this morning, “I have been so focused on the physical part of preparation, gear acquisition, and travel details,” she said, “[that] I kind of lost sight of why I am really doing this. I had to take a step back from it all and look down at my yellow LIVESTRONG bracelet. I wear it all the time so I hardly notice it anymore. After my hike the other day, a man at the bottom of the hill said “what’s the yellow band for?” And I explained LAF and LIVESTRONG, that I am going to Kili with you all, and that this trip is a celebration of my 5 years remission from cancer…it felt good to remember and get some perspective of how lucky we are to be physically strong enough [and] healthy enough to do this.”
I’m thankful to Amy for giving me a good dose of reality. It’s not about the climbing and hiking gear I’ve bought; the plane tickets I’ve purchased; the shots I’ve gotten in my arms; the altitude and malaria medicine I’ll have to take; or even—and hell, this is going to sound a little crazy, given what my blog says on the right side of the screen—about climbing a 19,341 foot mountain. It’s about the inspiring stories from people and organizations like Amy Bartlett; the Bobet family; Texas 4000; Go4theGoal and the Stefanacci and Buffa families; Brendan Borek High Tides Memorial Fund; Penn State Dance MaraTHON's THON families and kids, my aunt Edie; and countless others who have fought cancer. I climb for them all, and so many more.
Additionally, I climb to honor the memories of those I’ve lost, like my grandmother (breast cancer), college mentor (brain cancer), and uncle (lung, thyroid, and brain cancer).
I’m on the Survivor Summit team because I hate cancer, and I want to make the lives of fighters and survivors everywhere a little easier. The money that I’ve been raising goes toward cancer programs and services at LIVESTRONG. For example: Navigation Services, which supports individuals when they are in the first stages of their diagnosis, and need help figuring out their new treatment, insurance, and healthcare options. Or Fertile Hope, which works with LIVESTRONG to fund and guide individuals fighting cancer in making personal choices when a course of treatment presents the risk of infertility. Or Cancer Transitions, which aids people affected by cancer by providing stress reduction, nutrition, and exercise classes. These are all just a small sampling of ways that LIVESTRONG genuinely helps individuals meet the challenges of cancer head-on. I feel exceedingly lucky to be a small part of such an incredible organization.
In this spirit, I intend to write more posts as part of my “Why I Climb" series to honor the stories near and far of courageous, incredible, and inspiring people who are fighting or have been affected by this disease. I’ll never forget that I’m fortunate to be able to participate in this cause. Because boots, backpacks, or booster shots will not motivate me to move up that mountain in less than four weeks time.
But stories of strength and bravery will.