Kathleen Kauffman
Kathleen Kauffman

Reflections on a Birthday in the Grand Canyon
Friday, May 12
Thoughts and emotions are swirling around inside me, much like the rotor blades of the sightseeing helicopters circling over the Grand Canyon. The Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma hike was one of the most empowering, inspiring, challenging and meaningful experiences of my life. This jumble of feelings and reflections will take a while to “gel.” Meanwhile, here is what I do know:
 
Empowering. I know that the Grand Canyon trek empowered me. I hiked on the Bright Angel Trail when, exactly one year earlier, I laid in a hospital bed wondering what the future held. Was there really hope? The answer is a strong YES!
 
I stepped outside of my comfort zone to join the Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma team and found more strength than I thought I had. I gained physical strength by training for the hike. I raised over $10,000 for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF)! My family and friends were thrilled to support me by donating to the MMRF, and I was floored by the number of people that sent messages cheering me on. I received donations from the church women’s group in my childhood hometown, even though I have not lived there for over 30 years.
 
What a joy to know I am empowered to do much more than I thought. I plan to use this newly found empowerment to do more — all it takes is reaching out to others. 
 
Inspiring. I know the inspiration I received from the 2017 Grand Canyon Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma team lifted me up at a time when I needed it most.
 
Everyone has a story. The team members shared theirs — promises to and love for parents with myeloma; patients going up and down mountains every day on the myeloma journey; researchers working their tails off to continue to develop myeloma drugs that improve our lives; and, the dedication of the MMRF staff to relentlessly pursue funds to support research and resources that allow patients with myeloma to enjoy their life and LIVE!    
 
Challenging. I know this hike was a real challenge for me. About a month ago, after I signed up and was training for the hike, I relapsed and started different medications that impacted my agility and balance.
 
Then, the day prior to the hike, I had a whopper of a nose bleed (no doubt caused by the high elevation and dry air). Would I be able to do the hike? This is when the amazing dedication and support of the Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma team kicked in. The hiking guides and MMRF leadership adjusted their plans to add a shorter hike at a slower pace. And, another member of the team accompanied me on the hike at my tortoise-like pace.
 
My husband encouraged me to go for it. What generosity! So, with their assistance, I met the challenge and hiked the Bright Angel Trail.
 
I am so used to meeting challenges by being the best or at least close to the top. But, I’m learning that the real challenge with myeloma is to live life to the fullest every single day. Hiking the Bright Angel Trail is one of the biggest challenges and biggest “wins” of my life.     
 
Meaningful. I know I experienced many meaningful moments throughout the weekend. One stands out — I celebrated my 55th birthday watching the majestic sunrise over the Grand Canyon in the company of my new friends. The grandeur, beauty and stillness of the Canyon was overwhelming.
 
God’s creations are amazing and put things in perspective. Yes, I have multiple myeloma. It is a challenging journey, but it is also quite a meaningful one. I live one day at a time soaking up the beauty all around us. I have deeper and more meaningful relationships with God, family and friends. I am more aware of peoples’ stories and the value of listening.
 
As I turn 55, I hope to continue growing by reaching out to others and making the most of every day.   
 
I am honored to be a member of the 2017 Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma Grand Canyon team. The entire experience is the best birthday present I have ever received. I want to say thank you to the MMRF and my team members.
 
For those myeloma patients, caregivers, scientists or anyone else involved in the multiple myeloma world and considering whether to apply for Moving Mountains For Myeloma programs, DO IT! Take it from someone who finally took a step outside the box after 55 years. It is so worth it.
 
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