RYAN COHLHEPP
RYAN COHLHEPP

What I Learned From the Climb
Thursday, June 30
During my experience at Takeda, I have had the privilege of spending time with a host of multiple myeloma patients and listening to their inspirational stories of courage and perseverance. This is something about my job that never gets old and always seems to renew in me a new level of enthusiasm for the work I do and the commitment our entire company embraces towards patients and developing transformative medicines that make a difference in their lives.

When I listen to myeloma patients tell the stories of their diagnoses, treatment and how this occurrence changed their lives forever, one of the descriptive metaphors I often hear is how this experience is like climbing a mountain. And after climbing Kilimanjaro earlier this year as part of the Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma project, I completely understand this imagery and realize that it’s an apt description. Climbing Kilimanjaro is among the most physically challenging things I have ever done, but I now realize that it is more than just a physical test and not without its emotional impact on any climber. This is especially true when you are part of a climbing team that that includes cancer patients and understand the burdens they carry during their normal lives as they combat their illness, let alone as they attempt to scale a mountain. Like my fellow climbers, I experienced the rush of success and sense of accomplishment when we reached Kilimanjaro’s summit, and also realize that it’s not just about getting to the top; it’s also about life’s lessons that we learned along the way. Lessons that I carried with me from the mountain to my normal life and job back home.

Those of us who have the privilege of working in an industry that creates medicines for cancer patients need only look as far as those patients for inspiration to keep doing our jobs to ensure that these drugs get created and are accessible to all. My recent experience on Kilimanjaro has given me a more personal reason to forge ahead. I now can actually put faces to that inspiration and as I sit in my office and interact with colleagues who share a similar passion I reflect back on my time spent on Kilimanjaro and draw strength from those patients who never really get off the mountain as they continue their climb to beat cancer.
 
First Day of the Climb
Monday, January 18
Today was our first day on the mountain and we are about to sit down for our first dinner as I write this.

The day called for an 8:30 a.m. start with everyone meeting in the lobby with our duffles and day packs. It was amazing to see 15 XL North Face duffle bags loaded on top of the bus that was shuttling us up to the gate. We were able to see just a small group of the overall crew that is going to take us to top.

We made it to the check-in point for the Londorosi gate. It was an incredible scene as other groups and hundreds of porters were there to have the loads they were going to carry weighed in and officially approved. To say that it was an amazing scene is an understatement.

After our check-in, we got back into the bus for a quick drive to the trail head. We hit the trail for about a 3 1/2-hour climb to get to our first camp. Today was a day trekking through the rain forest with many spots being muddy and at times difficult to climb. It was absolutely incredible to watch the porters blow by us carrying their load generally on their heads and their own belongings on their back.

Upon arrival at camp, our team of porters met us with a hearty welcome of African songs. They then quickly moved us to our tent city and helped us begin our set up, including bringing us all water to clean up before we moved to the communal tent for popcorn and a warm drink. We all got our medical check to test for altitude sickness and we passed with flying colors. Ben and John, who are on the trip to document it by video and photos, also traveled here with a drone which they flew around camp. I got the impression that drones on Kilimanjaro are not a common thing and our camp has quickly become quite the attraction.

Day 1 is in the books as a huge success and we are replenishing to gear up for Day 2. The team is doing well and ready to tackle this mountain. Cheers to all until next time.

- Ryan C.
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