James Brophy
James Brophy

The Pre-Game Jitters
Friday, February 17
Today seems like a normal day. Alarm went off (albeit, a little earlier than usual). Showered. Kissed Mrs. Broph goodbye. Caught the 6:15 a.m. NJ Transit Northeast Corridor train to NYC. From Penn Station, I hopped on a northbound E train and headed to my office in Midtown. But today is quite different – it’s game day! And as the Super Bowl reminded us recently, big games can take lots of twists and turns. 

Today is the first day of the journey to Kilimanjaro with my teammates. I have been planning and thinking about this Kili trek for more than a year. My teammates and I have been in regular contact for months, but many of us haven’t seen each other since our practice hike in July. It will be awesome to reconnect with them at the airport tonight and tomorrow.

The long-planned trip is now real. My teammates and I have all faced obstacles and challenges to make this adventure become a reality. For some of us, this trip is a lot more daunting than for others. But we have all prepared – mentally and physically. Like many athletes and fans that get nervous before a big sporting event, we can expect some pre-game jitters. This MM4MM team is focused. We are prepared. We are ready. 

Take a breath.

Put it in perspective. 

Think positive.

Can’t wait to see everyone. Let’s do this.
 
Returning to Africa
Monday, February 06
It was nearly 22 years ago when I left the comforts of a traditional college life to pursue an opportunity to study in Kenya. I lived and studied on a game ranch outside of Nairobi with a group of students from all around the USA and from all walks of life. Most of us shared common ideals, such as preservation and conservation, were seeking new inspiration, had an appetite for adventure, and were willing to travel outside of our comfort zones.
 
Together, we embarked on three major safaris. In the Maasai Mara, we gained an understanding of a truly different culture. Our overnight stay in the local community was an opportunity to practice our new love of the Swahili language. We were offered exotic food and potent drinks. Their home brews, called Changaa, made us hallucinate, and I was chosen as the oldest male guest to eat the cooked gizzards of a freshly slaughtered chicken out of respect. 
 
I celebrated my 21st birthday in a thatched mud hut and traded a Timex watch for a Maasai walking stick. My trade partner was so enamored by my “glow in the dark” watch that he was willing to part with his handcrafted walking stick. It was a long way from Ann Arbor study halls and even further from Mom’s homemade meatballs.
 
It was in the Serengeti that we conducted game counts and observed wildlife herds day after day. The African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros together make up the “Big Five” game animals. These beautiful creatures have been the subject of countless books and cable documentaries, and people travel across continents to be in their presence.  We learned about ecosystems in East Africa and the important roles that different species play. We conducted field research with the hope that future generations might also be able to enjoy the multitude of wildlife and natural beauty that surrounded us.
 
It was on our safari to Tsavo and Amboseli that I first stood at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. This was the “House of God” – the highest mountain in Africa, with its snow covered top that Hemingway wrote about in the “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” It never dawned on me that one day I would return to climb this stunning spectacle.
 
This was all more than 20 years ago. Today, I’m a bit older and certainly a bit changed. I’m a family man and work long hours, spending nearly all my extra time and energy with my beautiful wife and three curious boys. The closest I have come to Africa has been the portrait of an Acacia tree that hangs in our bedroom. Deep down, though, I still have an appetite for adventure and know that our entire group has new inspiration and common goals—helping to find a cure for multiple myeloma.  
 
Twenty-two years ago, I traveled to be with the “Big Five.” This time, I will travel back to Africa with the now so called “Big Six” -- April Jakubaus, Matt Goldman, Terry White, Nancy Dziedzic, Gary Rudman and Mark Herkert. My teammates are incredible human beings and a major source of inspiration for all of us. They are multiple myeloma patients taking on this challenge for their own personal reasons but with a shared ideal that this climb will help make a difference in the battle against this awful disease.  I’m excited and honored to be a part of this team. Together, while climbing a mountain, we can move mountains!
 
More Than Raising Money
Tuesday, January 17
It was almost a decade ago when I first came to know about multiple myeloma and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). My mother, Linda, was 62 when she was diagnosed with the disease. She was settling into her role as a new grandmother, had just watched her only daughter (my sister) get married and was enjoying retirement with my father when we got the devastating news.

Her illness and decline was gut wrenching. She was a woman who was always so vibrant and alive. When she was unable to spend time with my little boys due to the risk of getting sick, it broke her heart and mine. Her immune system was just too weak. These mental defeats were as equally hard as the physical ones.

As Hurricane Irene was leaving her mark on the East Coast in the fall of 2011, my mom lost her three-year struggle. As a result of the storm, many of her closest friends were unable to say goodbye properly. She deserved more.

To fill the void, we decided to honor her life and memory with an annual golf gathering. Golf was a sport she took up late in life, but loved. She embraced its challenges and she enjoyed her time with her new golf buddies. For the past five years, each spring our family rallies together and puts on a great charity event, The Linda Brophy Memorial Golf Classic. Aunts, uncles, family friends that I have known since I was little boy, and generous work colleagues all attend. We get the treat of surrounding ourselves with people she would have liked to spend time with.

My family is proud of our support of the MMRF and the day we have created together. While we have raised over $250,000 on their behalf, the knowledge that this money has, in fact, helped patients’ lives is the most rewarding. The MMRF has accomplished much and has become a model for other cancer organizations.

The 2017 Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma trek to Mt Kilimanjaro is an extension of my commitment and support for the life-changing work done by the MMRF in the field of oncology and cancer research. The work of the MMRF accelerates innovative treatment approaches to extend the lives of myeloma patients and find a cure. When I was offered the chance to be part of this remarkable team, I jumped at the opportunity. I’m honored.

I miss my mom dearly and think of her every day, I am comforted that she will be at 19,341 feet above sea level alongside me on this big challenge. However, my challenge is nothing compared to the challenge faced by her and other patients with multiple myeloma.
Interested in multiple myeloma updates from CURE®? Sign up for our newsletter!

Partners
Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

View our interviews with climber Chuck Wakefield
Terms & Conditions | Privacy Policy