Rebecca Amitai
Rebecca Amitai

I Climb for Those Who Can't
Thursday, January 19
I was supposed to be climbing Kilimanjaro with my good friend, Anne. We’ve made each other laugh for over 35 years, and despite having multiple myeloma she’s much fitter and stronger than I could ever hope to be.
The Kilimanjaro trip came to my attention back in January 2016 from a friend on the trip who has been a longtime supporter of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). That day, I had a difficult phone call with Anne. It was six months after her stem cell transplant, and despite being in remission and feeling physically strong, she was down emotionally. I took a shot and asked if she would consider doing the Kilimanjaro climb with me in February 2017.  Her voice became strong and upbeat and without hesitation she said, “yes, it’s a no-brainer, let’s do it!”  We signed up for the trip together that day.
As her mood became elated, so did mine. It seemed like the perfect adventure to share and also, a great way to attempt to “give back.” Through Anne and others, I was learning about the amazing work being done by MMRF. They have been instrumental in helping to fast track new drugs that are lengthening patients’ life expectancies by orders of magnitude, and getting us closer to a cure.
Both Anne and I have dreamt for decades of climbing Kilimanjaro. It’s a bucket list item for both of us, so sharing this adventure gave it real purpose and felt like kismet. But Anne’s doctors wouldn’t give her medical clearance. Despite feeling strong, they felt it was too soon for this type of physical undertaking in a remote part of the world. And we began chatting about other possible adventures we could undertake together a year or two from now. Maybe Mt Fuji or Everest Base Camp. 
Unfortunately, last month, Anne noticed some lumps. She had them checked out, and she’s officially relapsed. She’s having a series of infusions which, if all goes well, will hopefully lead to another stem cell transplant.  Even though she is feeling pretty good, she is basically back to fighting for her life. The doctors reassure her that they have identified this particular strain of multiple myeloma and still have weapons in their cache of ammunition. 
Sadly, I had hoped and planned to do this trip with Anne. I wanted her to be one of the amazing people in the group. Instead, I’m here talking and writing about her strength, optimism and courage. Despite the endless reassurances, I’m hoping I’m doing the right thing by tackling it without her. She will be in my heart and in my head the whole way up and down that mountain.  I hope she will be by my side if we get to tackle another big adventure for the MMRF.
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