I will never forget the words, “I am sorry, you have cancer.” It seems like just yesterday, when the doctor came in and told me and my family that I had stage 4 osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer). I was so naïve when I was diagnosed with cancer. I never realized that I would spend the majority of the next 12 months in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy and either being asleep or awake vomiting, fighting the urge to run away each time I had to have another test or another needle stuck into me, crying as I watched as all my hair fell out and wondering if anyone would ever think I was pretty, undergoing multiple surgeries trying to save my leg and end up having it amputated above the knee anyway, and hearing on several occasions that the cancer had spread to my lungs and more surgery would be needed.
Fast forward 24 years later. I am a healthy 37-year-old, above the knee amputee. I am a cancer survivor. In fact, I was actually a cancer survivor the first day I found out I had cancer. Over the years, I have had the privilege of sharing my story with other cancer patients, specifically those who either need an amputation or have had an amputation. I try to stress to them that if they want to continue an activity or take up a new activity, they just do it and not let anyone, even themselves tell them that something is not possible. I have found that anything is possible and that is why I made the decision to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in June with Survivor Summit.
I have a confession to make. I am not some amazing athlete. Actually I would not even consider myself athletic. But if there was something I wanted to do, I made a point of trying it. I play the occasional round of golf, I have gone indoor climbing, kayaking and recently went skydiving for the first time. And, now I have set my sites once again on climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. This will be my second attempt. In 2010 I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and had to turn around before the summit. I am excited to have another opportunity. This is my personal summit – I am going to finish what I started and stand at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro as an above the knee amputee cancer survivor. It is my desire to use my experience to give hope and inspiration to other cancer survivors and share with them that anything is possible.
The 2012 Survivor Summit will take place June 23–July 6, 2012. Expedition participants will set out to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest freestanding mountain. You can also take part by participating virtually and choosing your own personal summit or honoring a loved one on the expedition Honor Flag. A couple of spots have opened up, for more information, please visit SurvivorSummit.org.