Why I Climb

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.


Given just eight weeks before dying from cancer, Jimmy Valvano’s 1993 ESPY speech is undoubtedly inspiring. The V Foundation for Cancer Research was officially founded later that year by ESPN to honor this legendary North Carolina State basketball coach and ESPN commentator. In the nearly 20 years that have passed since, the foundation has raised more than $115 million to fund cancer research grants nationwide. It also awards 100% of all new direct cash donations and net proceeds from events directly to cancer research and related programs. I know I’ll be powered to climb Kilimanjaro for LIVESTRONG with his amazing and relentless mantra in mind: “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

The 365 Run Mission

LIVESTRONG grassroots fundraiser Jax Mariash is inspiring. Jax has run every day for the last 364 days and has logged over 3,000 miles in 54 cities, 15 states, and two countries. She runs in honor of her stepfather’s passing and for all those affected by cancer. She chose to raise money to benefit LIVESTRONG because of their comprehensive ability “to help someone from the second that they (are) diagnosed with tools and aid…to when they are in remission and trying to get back on their feet.” Tomorrow is her last day of running, but you can still check out her blog at: www.run365daysnarow.tumblr.com

The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday; and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.
Neil deGrasse Tyson

(Source: fishingboatproceeds, via inhabitude)


Why I Climb

Today I climb for my Survivor Summit teammates. For a few months now, we’ve all had the chance to interact over emails and Facebook posts, but I find that actually seeing someone in person is always a much better experience. For example, I had the privilege of hiking around the Greenbelt this past weekend with Mindy, an amazing osteosarcoma survivor who is so down-to-earth, kind, and funny. She’s determined to make it to the top of Kilimanjaro with Survivor Summit, as this will be her second attempt. Meeting her one-on-one was wonderful. I learned about Mindy’s work with the Mayo Clinic, and also got some good advice for the climb. Since she’s been there before, I listened carefully to any information she offered.

A few weeks back, I also happened to run into Mona at REI! She was looking for the gear she’ll need for the climb, and I was trying to finish up my own list and find a few last-minute items. I found out that Mona is an experienced climber and quite the photographer, too. I’m looking forward to our long plane ride over to Tanzania, where I hope we have even more time to catch up.

I’ve only met two of my teammates in person. They’re both incredible people with strong spirits, and since meeting them, I really can’t wait to go to Africa in less than eight weeks and meet the rest of the group, too. One of the things I still cherish the most about the Texas 4000 ride was how close I got with my teammates. I remember hearing a new reason every day about why they were riding; the loss of uncles, fathers, mothers, aunts, cousins, family, and friends motivated me to get on my bike daily and ride with these stories in mind.

I’m anticipating that there will be a similar level of closeness when we finally embark on our climb up Kilimanjaro to fight cancer. As such, I’m pumped up to learn new inspiring tales from my Survivor Summit teammates. So today, I climb for them.

Participant's Blogs: Amazing Stories

Just a little over than 2 months until our adventure up Kilimanjaro begins. The entire team has been preparing for the long climb (some 38 miles all told) by running, hiking, stair-climbing, cycling, and getting mentally ready, too. Additionally, our team has currently raised over $100,000 for LIVESTRONG, funds that will help LIVESTRONG to reach cancer survivors and provide service to those that need their help. A few of team members, myself included, are posting on blogs or have appeared in newspaper articles, and Survivor Summit wanted share them on their site. Visit the link above to see us getting the word out about our cause.

Thought for the Day

"Service isn’t doing what’s expected of us. Service is doing more than what’s expected of us." —Simon Sinek

Motivation for Fitness: The Happy Challenge

"Take the time to enjoy something that you normally rush through. You may truly enjoy this thing. It may be a song, a food, a movie, your daily walk/run a book…whatever it is, absorb yourself in it completely. Stop going through the motions blindly and actually notice what you’re doing and how."


Lots of Benefits to Quitting Smoking

Rick Morris, one of seven CNN viewers participating in the CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge, details some of the benefits from quitting smoking—like feeling healthier and saving money. Read the link above for more information and motivation.

Lisa's reflections on summitting Kilimanjaro and raising over $10,000 for cancer programs and services at LIVESTRONG.