Joel Topf

Ready, Set, Go
Sunday, March 04
The crew has converged from around the United States to Hotel Manaslu, a little hotel in Kathmandu that is buzzing with trekkers. We literally encircled the globe with people traveling west and through Korea, and east through Abu Dhabi, Turkey and Philadelphia to get here. Our Everest Base Camp group first met nine months ago in Colorado when we summited Mount Democrat. Since then, we have traded stories, tips, workouts, and jokes on Facebook. We have endlessly obsessed over the details about vaccines, medications, hiking boots, and the itinerary on conference calls. All of it leading up to this moment. The months of sweating over equipment ounces and waistline pounds has all been in service of this moment.

We are on the precipice.

For months we studied the weather at Lukla, trying to imagine how cold (or warm and sunny, please) it will be when we finally arrive. And when we finally arrive is tomorrow.

Everyone is excited. Reacquainting ourselves in person after nine months of electronic communication has everyone buzzing. It is like a reverse class reunion, where we meet and are excited, not about what we have gone through together, but what we will experience together. We don’t know what the obstacles will be, but we know it is going to be hard. It is going to be memorable. It is going to be special.

On your marks...Get set...
Rewriting the Narrative for Multiple Myeloma
Wednesday, February 21
Jim Ronning
The trek to Everest base camp is a once in a lifetime experience. I should be bouncing with excitement but that is not what I feel. I feel unease. I feel unsettled. I read about the side effects of high altitude trekking: weakness, confusion, headaches, insomnia, nausea. This makes me nervous.

I look at the weather and see temperatures in the low teens. And that is at Lukla, an elevation of 9,300 feet, only half as high as Kala Patthar, our ultimate goal. I think of the previous times that I have been to high altitude. The top of Breckenridge at a hair under 13,000 feet, the top of Mount Democrat at 14,154 feet. When you are on these peaks it is cold and windy and the plan is always to quick snap some pictures and get down. In a couple of weeks, we'll be at those altitudes and the plan will be to go further up the mountain. We will go nearly a mile higher than anything in the continental United States. This is unsettling.

But this nervousness is in the name of something much greater. Something bigger than my personal discomfort. This trek is not an adrenaline fix. It is not about putting a dent in the bucket list. This is more important than my uneasiness and general anxiety. This trek is about rewriting the medical textbooks. It is about changing the narrative of a disease that just a few years ago had a dismal and short disease course. Multiple myeloma has a new narrative, one that is filled with words like remission, and hope, and dare we say...cure.

The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) is a new type of disease charity. One that is focused on real advances. The MMRF is bringing treatments to patients and lighting lanterns of hope for patients everywhere, because if the story of multiple myeloma can be rewritten, so can any disease.

And so we climb. We trek. We hike to altitudes that are found few places in the world. We do it to call attention to this disease and the patients that are beating it. We are a symbol of a better future and for that I will suppress my anxiety and ignore some discomfort. This is big.
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