ANY MOUNTAIN EVEREST: Personal Fundraising Page
Why I am supporting the climb I want to help fight this virulent disease and support my great colleague, adventure partner, cancer survivor and wonderful friend, Mary Beth.
Below is my friend Mary Beth's story and journey through Ovarian Cancer. Mary Beth and I became close friends when we met and worked together on many cases as agent and prosecutor. Her hard work, dedication and sense of humor got us through lots of work experiences. Since then we have been adventure partners along with her husband Floyd, climbing Kilimanjaro, hiking the Wonderland trial, Hadrian's wall in England and many Alaskan hikes, bikes and kayak trips. Her goal driven fight through her cancer diagnosis and continued training leading to the summit of Denali just added to her lore as my inspiring friend. I am so proud to support her in this effort.
My dream to climb mountains started shortly after retired from the FBI and finished a thru hike on the Appalachian Trail in 2018. Along the Appalachian trail, I hiked to a number of the high points in states like Maine, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and New Hampshire and thought my next challenge should be to reach the high points in every state. I thought this was a cool idea until I realized that this meant climbing Denali at 20,310 feet and Mt. Rainier both of which required mountaineering skills that I didn’t possess. As an avid hiker, I had a decent physical fitness base but I knew that both of these mountains were going to be bigger challenges than I had ever tackled. Being in my mid fifties, I decided to climb these mountains sooner rather than later given that I wasn’t getting any younger. Florida, Rhode Island and Delaware could wait.
My initial plan was to take a mountaineering skills course, then climb Rainier followed by Denali a year later but in life most things don’t go according to plan. First, Covid hit and my mountaineering course was canceled. I was able to reschedule and did a 10 day course on the Kahiltna Glacier on Denali in May 2021. My next step was to climb Rainier in August 2021 but that too was derailed by an unexpected battle with ovarian cancer.
In June 2021, I was experiencing some unusual bleeding and went to my gynecologist who discovered a large mass on one of my ovaries. In July, I had surgery to remove the mass which turned out to be an aggressive form of ovarian cancer. The good news was the cancer had not spread and I was diagnosed at Stage IC, which is curable. The majority of women with ovarian cancer are not as lucky, most are not diagnosed with the disease until after the cancer has spread significantly throughout their bodies making ovarian cancer one of the most deadly cancers for women. I was also fortunate that Anchorage, Alaska has a top notch medical team at Alaska Women’s Cancer Care who were equipped to handle my surgery and my follow up treatment. My surgical oncologist was Dr. Joanie Mayer Hope who is also an amazing surgeon, a leader in the battle against gynecological cancers, and a fierce advocate for her patients. Understanding my passion for climbing, Dr. Hope immediately changed one of my chemotherapy medications that might have hindered my climbing goals.
From August through December 2021, I underwent 6 rounds of chemotherapy. Being determined and unwilling to forego my mountain climbing goals Denali and Mt. Rainier, I continued to hike everyday no matter how poorly I was feeling. My goal was to maintain my fitness and begin my hardcore training after treatments concluded. The sight of Denali during my daily three mile hikes fueled my passion and kept me focused. By October, I was halfway through my treatments and I was feeling strong. To meet my goal of climbing Denali in 2022, I had to sign up by the end of October to ensure a spot on the team. I took the plunge and signed up to climb the mountain.
With the help of my husband, Floyd, my friends, my family, my doctor, my massage therapist, my acupuncturist, my nutritionist, my puppy Breezy who at the time was a service dog in training (now a certified service dog), and my cat Pumpkin, I continued to train and train and train while getting stronger and fitter in the months leading up to the climb. In May I was scheduled to climb Rainier with Jess Wedel, a mountain guide and a fellow ovarian cancer survivor. Jess is an inspiration to me and I was thrilled to have a chance to reach the summit of Rainier with her. Unforunatley, our efforts were thwarted by too much snow on the mountain. It was disappointing but I was still on track to climb Denali in June.
Climbing Denali is considered by many mountain climbers to be as hard as climbing Everest. On Everest, you are supported by sherpas who carry much of your gear and handle most of the work at camp. On Denali, each climber must carry all of their own gear and part of the team’s gear along with setting up tents, caching gear and other chores. I needed to climb with a 50lb backpack and pull a sled with an additional 50lbs of gear. To be ready for this, I practiced climbing with a heavier and heavier pack for longer and longer distances.
The last part of my training was a trip to Peru to hike at high altitude, 15,000ft. The trip went well until Floyd and I arrived home and tested positive for Covid. At this point, I was 7 days from beginning my climb, just enough time to be out of quarantine. My doctor prescribed antibody infusion but I was still concerned that my performance on Denali would be compromised. Life kept throwing obstacles in my way, but I kept finding ways around them.
On June 15th, I met my teammates for the climb at the Anchorage airport and we shuttled to Talkeetna where we spent the next couple of days organizing and packing for the climb. By June 17th we were on the mountain and the adventure began. Summit day was spectacular and filled with elation, satisfication and comaraderie. Check out the full blog of the Denali climb https://www.rmiguides.com/blog/expedition/dena_6_15_2022_bond/desc.
After returning from Denali summit, Dr. Hope blew me away by asking if I wanted to climb Mt. Everest to support the Any Mountain Everest Project. I am so excited to have the opportunity to combine my love of climbing with such an important project which is so meaningful to me. Please consider supporting this project with your donation which will fund research into developing an early detection tool and discovering preventative measures so that every woman has the opportunity to reach her goals.
To make a donation hit the turquoise button labeled donate now on the upper right hand of this webpage. If you are interested in trekking to base camp, consider joining the team which requires raising at least $12,000. All donations go towards research and raising awareness.