April Jakubauskas
April Jakubauskas

5 Worries I Will Leave Behind During the Climb
Thursday, February 16
Before I leave to hike the long awaited journey up the majestic Mt Kilimanjaro, I was asked what worries I might leave behind.
 
I really need to think about this because it's very hard for me to let go of worry. The worries I had before diagnosis were big at the time: Will I be able to pay my mortgage this month? Will my father be okay alone since losing my mother to cancer 14 years ago? How can I generate more business at my barber shop?
 
After my diagnosis of multiple myeloma with secondary plasma cell leukemia, all of my past worries meant nothing – nothing at all. Those worries were replaced with: Will I live? Will I survive the many treatments? Will they find a stem cell donor so that I can continue living? What kind of life will I have? Who will care for me? Will I ever do anything that gives me joy or happiness again? I went to bed with those worries and with what little sleep I could manage I woke up with my fists clenched with anxiety thinking those thoughts again.
 
That started September 25, 2012. And today, I am here to write about the worries I will leave behind as I climb a 20,000-foot mountain...IN AFRICA!
 
I'm still here!
 
And as good fate, faith, amazing doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a selfless stem cell donor from Germany will have it, I am here, I am alive, I'm engaged to a beautiful woman AND I've been chosen and sponsored by Takeda Oncology, CURE® Magazine and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation to hike a mountain with five other hard core, life-loving, enthusiastic multiple myeloma patients. I am honored to be amongst these life-loving individuals, and as long as we are together facing this glorious once-in-a-lifetime climb, I will leave behind my worries of doctor appointments, blood tests, test results and questions of who will care for me and how long I have.
 
I will replace it with love, gratitude and peace in my heart.
Giving Is Better Than Receiving
Thursday, December 22
In September of 2012, I was given the news that I had stage 3 multiple myeloma with secondary plasma cell leukemia. The only option was to get me into a deep remission through a combination treatment and then start the first of two stem cell transplants.

This required harvesting my own stem cells, which was a process all of its own, then putting me in the hospital for two weeks and zapping me with a high dose of chemo. That chemo would then put me in a very deep remission because the plan was that my transplant doctor, from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, would give me a second transplant received from a donor. After my brother tested negative for a match, the team had to go through a registry called Be The Match. That is where wonderful selfless people swab their mouths and send that swab to the Be the Match registry where it waits in a lab for someone like myself in need. My donor, who I owe my life to, was a nine out of 10 match, indicating that her DNA components and mine were similar, therefore her immune system is able to take over mine along with her blood type, and together, we fight cancer.

When I was approached and asked if I was interested in joining a team of multiple myeloma survivors and warriors, I thought it was an incredible opportunity, but to tell you the truth, I would much rather be getting spa treatments and drinking margaritas on a beach to stick it to myeloma. But, after thinking about all of the support and inspiration that I am giving cancer patients, and just people in general, on this adventure, I feel as though I'm turning my selfishness into selflessness.

I am telling people that you can come back from a life-or-death experience of anxiety, pain and suffering and turn it around mentally and physically to climb a huge mountain halfway across the world. I want to bring hope to fellow cancer patients that, with today's science and medical breakthroughs, through companies and organizations like Takeda Oncology, The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, Be The Match, and The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, you can still get excited about life and living. I am honored to be climbing this big mountain of hope with five other myeloma patients, and together, we will concur.
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