Liz Lewis

This Time, It's Different
Monday, July 17
I just made it to Tokyo after a 13-hour flight from Boston, and though I’ve traveled to Japan over 15 times since 2009 for business, landing here this time feels different.

When preparing for this trip, it dawned on me that I’ve never experienced the country unfiltered and as a tourist.  On my business trips, I’ve always been accompanied by colleagues and on a schedule, getting off the plane and going straight to the hotel, then to the Takeda office for meetings, business dinners at the end of the day and back to the hotel. Mount Fuji has always been there in the background, visible from the windows of conference and hotel rooms, beautiful and alluring.

This trip is going to be completely different. I packed hiking boots and tourist clothes instead of business attire; we’ll be staying in a traditional hut on the mountain instead of a hotel. I’ll be out and about in Tokyo for a whole day as we do a warm-up hike instead of just walking back and forth to the office. And for the first time, I’ll be hiking up Mt. Fuji instead of seeing it in the distance. It has not sunk in yet.  

In my role as Head of Patient Advocacy for Takeda Oncology, I work closely with patients and advocacy organizations. I’ve shared in their successes as well as their challenges. But being able to actually walk side by side with the myeloma community — the patients, the caregivers, the physicians — is incredibly impactful and sheds a new light on the work I do every day.

Being in a different country, I can’t help but think about my family. While they might think I’m crazy for taking on this climb, they’ve also been incredibly supportive. My husband is a big hiker — on a recent trip to France we hiked the Pyrenees range together — and has stood by me throughout my training.  Even my fashion forward daughter has  tagged along on trips to REI to pick out gear and supplies and to help me pick out the most fashionable hiking boots!
As I step off the plane though, I’m thinking about Team Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma. Hiking Mt. Monadnock together in June bonded us, and I’m excited to see them again and continue this journey together.
 
A Personal Pursuit
Friday, June 09
When I was a child, I used to accompany my father on his Saturday morning rounds at the hospital. He was a physician and for me it was a treat to spend time with him and watch how he cared for his patients. Little did I know then how formative this experience would be and that I would work in an industry dedicated to patients.  

As Head of Patient Advocacy for Takeda Oncology, I have had the opportunity to spend time with many individuals afflicted with cancer and have developed a better understanding of their journey with this insidious disease and how their voice can be incorporated into the development of new medicines. Cancer not only affects the patient, but also their family, caregivers, medical teams and the multitudes of researchers and staff who work at companies like Takeda who are trying to develop and provide better outcomes for patients. Cancer is indiscriminate and unfortunately most of us now have a personal connection to the disease.   

Climbing a mountain has become a familiar metaphor for the journey cancer patients experience—it’s difficult, mostly unpredictable and consists of thousands of small steps toward an ultimate goal. So when I was asked to climb Mt. Fuji as part of the Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma program to raise awareness and research funds for this blood cancer, I couldn’t think of a single reason not to participate; although intellectually, I suppose there were a few, as I’ve never climbed a mountain as high as Mt. Fuji before!   

Humor aside, this expedition is the perfect opportunity for me to walk step by step with patients and caregivers in solidarity against cancer.  I recently hiked the 3,165 ft. practice climb up Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire with “Team Fuji” and I was inspired by all the members of Team Fuji.  It will be an honor to climb with them.  Now having this practice climb under my belt, I’m one step closer toward conquering a mountain that is four times higher and continuing this journey—bring it on!
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View our interviews with climber Chuck Wakefield