Guest Post by 2017 Climb Against the Odds climber, Amy
It was the middle of June, and I found myself surrounded by snow. My body fought for oxygen as I propelled myself, one crunchy footstep at a time, toward the 14,179 foot peak. Summiting Mt. Shasta was not only a physical achievement, but something that just five years ago would have been totally impossible for me.
In 2012 I was in the prime of my life. I was living a healthy and active lifestyle, having completed four marathons (including Boston), eight half marathons and numerous sporting events. The discovery of a lump in my breast and my diagnosis with stage one cancer was a complete shock. I struggled to find a cause for my cancer. I lived a more than healthy lifestyle, never smoked, and had no family history of the disease.
The years after my diagnosis proved to be humbling. After seven surgeries, a year of chemotherapy, a year without hair, and five years of cancer meds, I could finally pronounce myself cancer free! In 2017 I celebrated five years of survival without the disease. After all this, it was time to do something momentous and inspiring as a capstone to my battle with cancer.
In 2017 I joined a team of men and women committed to preventing breast cancer in Breast Cancer Prevention Partners’ Climb Against the Odds. Our group committed to climbing Mt. Shasta and collectively raised over $100,000 for BCPP, an organization that works to prevent breast cancer by eliminating our exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation. Having never been a hiker, the training schedule seemed daunting and the fund-raising seemed challenging (how could I possibly raise that amount?), but I was determined to stick to my goals.
I was astonished by the generosity of my donors. Fundraising was relatively easy with help from BCPP’s website and staff, and ideas shared by the hiking team. The training opened a world of hiking locations I would have never otherwise visited, and the benefits of cross-training brought on a new sense of self-confidence. I also discovered a connection to the outdoors I’d long forgotten.
For me reaching my personal summit was epic, but it was the stories, comradery and friendships that I experienced during the climb that will stay with me forever. As climbers, each of us were given the opportunity to bring prayer flags to the summit in honor of a loved one who has been touched by cancer. As the team I had grown so fond of descended the mountain, we stopped in a wooded clearing, held hands and shared stories of the special person that represented each flag. It was a moment I’ll hold closely in my heart forever. I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude and exuberance for life, knowing full well, that just five years ago, someone else could have been climbing this mountain sharing their story about me.
Climbing Shasta was surely a physical and mental feat, but what I bring with me down the mountain and through my life everyday is the ability to carry on where others can’t, and share my story so others will not have to suffer as I did. Breast Cancer Prevention Partners is doing this important work every day, and as I transition into survivorship, I’m highly motivated to align myself with their mission of awareness and prevention.
Climb Against the Odds is looking for 2018 climbers!