MARK HARDER
MARK HARDER

We Didn't Move the Mountain
Monday, February 01
Our original name was “Team Living Proof” (... that people with cancer are surviving and living full, rich lives). It turns out that is a very popular phrase and we needed to come up with something different. Eventually the name “Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma” was selected. Eighteen people came together for this effort with the support of hundreds of family members, supporters, contributors and sponsors. We prepared for our climb, worked out, met, bonded, fought, struggled, won and lost.

After all these efforts, we didn't move the mountain — the mountain moved us.

Cancer comes without warning, seemingly indiscriminately. Those that get the disease have no choice and are forced to face unknown challenges. We had the luxury of choosing our challenge and with such a wide spectrum of outcomes, Kilimanjaro forced each member to deal with different challenges. And each person had a different outcome.

Jamie, who started this whole thing with Stan, changed her life the most, worked out the hardest specifically for the mountain, and in the end, didn't make the summit.

Ramona, an experienced hiker was caught sick the day before the summit and just couldn't make it that summit day.

Jeff Goad, a very fit, talkative cancer patient learned at 18,000 feet that his vision didn't work at that altitude. There was nothing to prepare him for that and he had to descend shy of the summit to get his eyesight back.

The mountain, like cancer, does win sometimes. But these three people gave everything they had, worked extremely hard and met the challenge head on. They lived their life as full as possible while accepting a challenge that there are no guarantees for. The mountain moved them.

Colleen, who had gotten the worst of our high altitude lung/cough/wheeze had such a difficult time getting to the summit that by the time she reached the top of the mountain at Stella Point, from where you can see the Uhuru point (the top of the mountain 1.5 hours further walk), she saw the rest of the team arriving at Uhuru and decided the crater rim was a successful outcome for her.

Everyone who got to this point still needed to descend 4,500 feet, take lunch, nap and hike for another two to four hours on the same day. The mountain continues to produce new challenges.

At the summit, I had planned to take my time and run all of my cameras. I ran one. I was exhausted. Stan and Jeff Levine, who were slightly behind me on my way to Uhuru, both said they had wanted to get video of me staggering left and then staggering right. I have a memory of that, but not a strong one. I was simply putting one foot in front of the other. The mountain moved me to just keep going.

Jeff Levine offered an arm to Mark, one of our guides, on the descent and asked, “Do you like chicken? Then please, have a wing,” and gave Mark his arm to help him down the mountain.

Colleen got piggy back rides. Alicia, who spent everything she had getting to the top, needed assistance the entire way down. She said “I felt like an old lady.” She is not. The mountain moved us again — to persevere.

Marty “Party” Murphy, who was charged with carrying our GPS transponder and sending in our blog posts, was one of the most positive influences on our whole group. (He sponsored quite a few hangovers in Mooshi — but that is another story). Marty had a difficult ascent and, at one point, looked so bad that when Brian and I passed him, we asked if he wanted us to carry the transponder. He refused to give it up and made it to the top. The mountain made Marty take help from others to reach his goal.

Even our five person crew of aliens — those who didn't really have a problem with the first seven days of hiking — admitted that the summit was a challenge. Ryan Colheep, a marathoner, had kept a really high blood oxygen and low pulse rate up until the summit day when he finally turned to me and said, “Now, I am sufffering.”

Chuck “Colonel Sanka” Wakefield, an avid cyclist (as in 100 miles a day in 100-degree weather), admitted the summit was hard. Dr. Brian Berryman, another marathoner, whose mother died from multiple myeloma and who has dedicated his life to fighting the disease, agreed it was one of the hardest things he's ever done and wouldn't be doing it again.

The film crew, “Uncage the Soul,” AKA John and Ben, who had been complete superstars running ahead of us getting shots —expending incredible amounts of extra energy — finally had to admit that the summit affected their ability to go above and beyond.

The mountain gave everyone a view of their limits.

Many of us were drawn to tears by just getting to the top and Ben told the whole group that he was struck with emotion at the top remembering a friend of his that had died at age 20 from cancer.

The mountain peeled back our protective shells.

Our twin "Mapachas,” Jana and Julie, summarized their experience in Jana's comment to one of the Tanzanian crew members during the descent: “Your mountain is very big. I don't know if I love it anymore, but it is big.”

Jim, our Embark outfitter representative — who graciously learned to accept the moniker of “Babu” (grandpa) as a sign of affection and respect from both the film and Tanzanian crew — had some falls on the way down, but will never admit it.

I was lucky enough to cross the finish line the day after our summit with Mr. The Glass is Always Half Full and “Don't blame me I'm terminal,” Bob Dickey. He was spent and ready to get off the mountain, but always a pleasure to be around.

Those were the ways that the mountain challenged and moved us. Personally, I wouldn't have made it without the rest of my team, the Tanzanian support, the muted camaraderie with Uncage the Soul and the knowledge of all of my supporters and my family members who have died from cancer were right there in my mind urging me on — telling me it is OK to just put one foot in front of the other, to doggedly get through the most personally difficult thing in your life even when you are crying from headaches and nausea.

I hope that our struggles can give strength and courage to those who are affected with cancer. No one knows if they will make it to the top or “survive.” However, the spirit to give your all — in the face of unknown challenges — to relentlessly continue if you can and graciously accept the outcome if all else fails … that’s what inspires me. We set off trying to move the mountain. The mountain moved us and we hope it will move you too.
 
 
I’ve Got a Story That's Better Than That
Tuesday, January 19

YYyeeeeeeaaaahhhhh!!!!!! Day 2 at camp in the Sheera Platuau. 11,500 ft. This place is magical. We are surrounded by mountains, which oddly enough, have lots of vegetation on them. (This is not a real normal condition for me and my friends who spend time in Nevada). Today we had rain on the trail and everyone got to put on their rain gear. It was quite a whole mishmash of ways to stay dry and warm. The only problem is you are sweating a LOT. It ain't the easiest thing in the world Ive ever done. But we are doing it. Everyone in the group is still going strong. There were three up and down through valleys. With lots of fog, we only got a few glimpses of the beauty of the place. But it is stunning. I was hoping to have been tweeting and sending my supporters messages, however our tour operator nixed the going to town to get a SIM card. They got me one as we started the climb on really, really, really wet trails and I haven't gotten it sorted out. Maybe tomorrow. New words in Swahili? Maji = WATER! It keeps us alive and without headaches. Three or more liters a day and you are fine. Is this hard? Oh HELL yes. The person who seems to be having the easiest time of this is Jamie Slater who has a pulse rate of 74 after a day of climbing. I thought that was dead. Turns out it isn't. My pulse was up to 106 which is super high for me, but they don't seem to think it's a problem. And I feel fine. Even better today. We are also having fun ribbing each other. There are two guys on the trip who are going to start a singing group. They'll call it "One Up." Their hit lyrics? "I've got a story that's better than that … It includes me and the wondrous things in my life …" There are a finite number of verses, and they keep repeating them over and over. It's all good fun. It's staring to rain so I'll have to stop. Our porters sang the welcome song again so the official camera crew could put their drone in the air and take some footage. We are all doing amazing things. A big reason why is because you all this donated money to the MMRF. We’re raising money so we can say, “Enough with the cancer thing." Our four patients are killing it. Thanks for reading and supporting.
 
 
Getting Into My Groove
Tuesday, January 19

Good morning from Base Camp 1! Now close to 9000 ft (all of our altimeters are slightly different), we have had a great trip so far. Our guides, porters and leaders are really receptive to how we are doing. We get a medical check every night and morning. Pulse oximetry and pulse rate, a series of questions about how we feel on a scale from one to 10. Last pee. Last bowel movement. They’re really keeping an eye on how we are doing. The sleeping in camp was great — wasn't too cold at all. The light sleepers (Julie is one of them) didn't have as good a time of it with the early risers making noise and those who snore. Deep sleepers really had a great time.

Today promises to be much more challenging than yesterday with seven hours of hiking. Yikes! Yesterday was tiring because of starting at a hotel, going through the entirety of driving, checking in to the forest, signing into the park and making our way through all of the rest of the groups and porters as it seemed that all the groups got a late start.

Day 1’s hike was hard for me. It took me a very long time to get into my groove. At one point, the group stopped to look at a monkey. I just kept going. Not too fast, but continuously. I came back into touch with my early years as a competitive swimmer where you work out by yourself. No one to talk to when you are swimming. I really enjoyed the times I had alone on the trail. I took the time to stop and look up at the beauty of the place. Truly amazing.

I realized that I was so far ahead from the group that I could stop, take off my pack and set up a shot with my steady cam OSMO camera. I went back up the trail to wait for the team to come up and was greeted by a HUGE group that wasn't mine. Three of their porters offered to carry my pack — I told them no.

When my group finally caught up, I got my shot and was told by one of our guides to not leave my pack on the trail. I should have one of the guides watch it for me. Luckily, my pack was still there, I got my shot and kept going.

I got to camp one just in time to get footage of the camera crew of John and Ben putting their drone in the air with about a 100 porters watching. Then I got footage of our team when then arrived!

Having a great time. Happy that everyone in our team felt a 10. I hope we can all say that again after this long long hike today. I will be blogging again later so check back and wish me perfect 10's all around.

I’ve learned some Swahili: Asante Salla: Thank you very much! Careebo: Welcome or You are Welcome Jambo: Sup? Mambo: Sup? (slang) … The answer to which is Poa Poa: Cool cool 

That's what I've retained. Oh, and kwaherri: Good bye!
 
Interested in multiple myeloma updates from CURE®? Sign up for our newsletter!

Partners
Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

View our interviews with climber Chuck Wakefield