This is my next “Why I Climb,” and it goes out to my Survivor Summit teammate, Amy Bartlett.
Five years ago, Amy was battling and finishing her treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I first learned about her journey from friend and fellow teammate, Kim McIntyre. And when I met Amy in person once we were in Tanzania, she taught me so much about survivorship. Two of her mantras are: “cancer may leave your body, but it never leaves your life” and “cancer is the best and worst thing to ever happen to me.”
From her, I learned about the emotional and physical effects that cancer can have on survivors years after treatment ends, but I didn’t learn them because Amy let them slow her down. Rather, she let those experiences propel her forward, strengthen her relationships, and live strong.
When we got back from the trip, Amy wrote the following email to her supporters and teammates, which made its way around the internet—including the LIVESTRONG blog. Here’s the email:
I’ve spent the last 7 days thinking about a couple of things.
(1) How to describe the most epic adventure of my life, and
(2) how to put in to words what your support and encouragement means to me.
I’m still at “Friends, …”
I spent seven days climbing 37 miles up to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. We all made it, touched the sign, high-fived our teammates—but, that wasn’t my favorite part of the expedition. On day 3, I had the honor of climbing with the lovely Mindy Boyum’s team. She works for Livestrong and is an above the knee amputee from her cancer when she was just a little girl. Yeah, she kicks some serious booty. What was meant to be a 6 [to] 8 hour hike turned into an over 13 hour hike, darkness, cold, and uncertainty as to when we would make it to camp. (I did feel pretty cool wearing my headlamp though. Very Indiana Jones-ish.) Anyways, Mindy never complained once always keeping her eye on the prize. When we arrived to camp that evening around 9:30pm, our teammates were waiting for us. They rushed to make sure we were OK, served us hot tea and dinner. Everyone wanted to help us. We wanted them to make sure they knew we were OK.
You see, unbeknownst to me, this entire trip was a metaphor for a journey with cancer. Pretty sneaky, LIVESTRONG! It all became clear to me on day 3, which is why it will remain my most special day of the trip. A mountain seems impossible if you just look at the mountain (cancer). It is unfamiliar & scary territory until you get experienced guides (doctors) and break it down by day/milestone. People want to be on your team to support you (family, friends). The patient wants to do it—climb the mountain—in their own style and pace. Achieving your goals takes teamwork.
This is LIVESTRONG: It’s your life, you will have it your way.
I made lifelong friends and spent two weeks in a beautiful African land called Tanzania. Cancer remains the best and worst thing that has ever happened to me.”
This email sums up most everyone’s feelings about the trip, and serves as an extension of the LIVESTRONG Manifesto. Amy has done amazing things as a survivor in her own life, and this trip was a way for her to help others, too.
And if you visit Amy’s fundraising page, you’ll notice that she has raised over $43,000 for cancer programs and services at LIVESTRONG. $43,000! How awesome is that?
Thanks to Amy for teaching me that survivors can live strong and do amazing things after treatment ends—and for also teaching me to live strong for others, too. Today, I climb for Amy.
p.s. my favorite moment with Amy was when she “double rainbowed" when she saw elephants on the safari. She shrieked with excitement and awe when the pachyderms came ambling along our path. Let’s just say while she is a kickass fundraiser and cancer survivor, she almost scared all the animals away on our trip! Way to go, Amy, way to go.