Mitchell T. Happeney
Mitchell T. Happeney

Preparing for Kili and Meeting the Team
Wednesday, August 03
Am I mentally and physically ready for Mount Kilimanjaro? Our MMRF event manager, Kelley Ward, wanted all of us to answer this question with confidence very early. Therefore, an early pre-hike climb of Mount Bierstadt in Colorado was planned. From an individual perspective, I was pumped! Another climb! I am in! We could meet our teammates and calibrate our team for Mount Kilimanjaro. Such a great idea!
Shortly after receiving the news, I started training. With my dear friends, I ventured to the beautiful Red River Gorge and the majestic Smoky Mountains. For many hours, we hiked with packs and gear. It was tough at times, but I really enjoyed the hike. Luckily, two of my friends were experts — one hiked the Appalachian Trail and the other is an Eagle Scout. I was in good hands and they really helped me along. These two hiking experiences were difficult physically, but I pushed myself and I thought maybe I was ready for Mount Bierstadt.
Additionally, my friends were curious and asking questions about the Mount Kilimanjaro trek. It was good practice and fun to explain my cause: raising awareness and funds for multiple myeloma cancer research. It was rewarding to provide insights to others about fighting cancer. The fight is very real. Awareness starts with those small conversations.
Day 1 was filled with introductions and discussions about what brought us to join the Mount Kilimanjaro trek. In all, we had 22 individuals arrive to hike Mount Bierstadt: Two photographers, two explorers, two CURE magazine team members and 16 Mount Kilimanjaro team members. The group arrived from all over the country, from Alaska to Boston.
On June 8, we planned to visit Rocky Mountain National Park to complete a quick hike and really get to know each other. Then afterwards, we planned dinner with interviews.
While driving to Estes Park, I rode with Gary Rudman (a patient), Terry White (another patient) and Daryl Olsen (a caregiver). The entire ride, we shared our stories. There were some deep multiple myeloma-related discussions. These guys have battled. They fight every day. I was so impressed. But what intrigued me most was that multiple myeloma didn't define them. Gary is an amazing cyclist, Terry is a wild Alaskan fisherman and Daryl is an avid mountaineer. Such great stories come from people who overcome their obstacles. Getting to know them personally was a privilege.
After completing a short hike at Estes Park, we ate dinner together at a nearby restaurant. It was a really good bonding moment. Everyone was excited for the next day's hike. There was a distinct buzz in the room. We were asking ourselves: Why are we climbing Mount Kilimanjaro? Everyone had great reasons. Deep reasons.
Me? I am climbing for my father and the patients at that dinner table.
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