by Chris Brewer
While it’s always an honor to come to work at LIVESTRONG HQ every day, some days are without question better than others. Let’s face it, we work in the cancer continuum and while there are stories of amazing inspiration, there are also times of serious heartache. Thankfully we recently got to hear two amazing stories of success.
The first was something literally out of the blue. One of our friends, Iram, who’s in the “monitoring his situation” mode went in for a regularly scheduled test to check on the progress – or hopefully no progress – of his disease, brain cancer. Just imagine what it felt like, waiting to hear the news if you’re still “normal” with cancer literally inside your head or that a tougher fight is coming your way, to have a doctor come in and share with you the three greatest letters in cancer: NED, no evidence of disease! No medical explanation of how this came about, so call it what you will: a miracle, the body’s amazing ability to heal itself, blind luck, or just plain old living strong, none-the-less it was an amazing day for celebration.
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 6-8 hour hike turned in to an over 13 hour hike, darkness, cold, and uncertainty as to when we would make it to camp. (Although I did feel pretty cool wearing my headlamp. Very Indiana Jones-ish.) Anyway, 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 just 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. Attached is on picture from about 12,000 feet. Enjoying the sunset from above the clouds. I like the view I have…”