Cindi McNair
Cindi McNair

Go Team Kili 2017!
Wednesday, February 22
As the Mt. Kilimanjaro team climbs this week, I am on the sidelines cheering them on, applauding, grateful for this team, the MM4MM organization, these incredible people and their commitment. And couldn’t be more proud of these patients, caregivers, professionals and loved ones who committed to make this happen. Those who raise funds ARE making a difference!
 
The progress MMRF has made by funding critical research with their precision medicine model is making all the difference for patients like me. Myeloma is a cunning disease.  Myeloma is different for different patients…and different throughout time in the same patient as time goes on. Precision medicine (or personalized medicine) means that soon each patient can get the right drug at the right time based on his or her genetic makeup. With research like this, new drugs to market and organizations like the three MM4MM partners to FIGHT this disease, we can find cures.

This progress is personal for me. I am a 10-year survivor and was privileged to be part of the Machu Picchu team last August. Together, we climbed, one foot in front of the other, making lasting friendships and making a difference. The work of the MMRF, the continued commitment of people like this Mt. Kilimanjaro MM4MM team and partnerships like this one with Takeda Oncology and CURE are the reasons I am LIVING my life with this cancer. Dollars, research and drugs that are the HOPE for patients like me, empowered to know research is working, new drugs are allowing us to live longer, and to live with possibilities we didn’t think possible only a few years ago. 
 
And since my hike, I am back in the fight. Actively moving my mountain each week, as I undergo treatment to kick this disease back into remission. Moving my mountain with possibilities that weren’t available when I was diagnosed some 10 years ago. Triplet therapies, one of many new combinations of drugs used to now treat this nasty disease.  Possibilities to be inspired, to move mountains, to hope for a future where the flames refused to be extinguished and we all honor the resiliency of the human spirit. 
 
So Mt. Kili team: Climb that mountain! Because you CAN, because you ARE, and because you are doing it, one step at a time, and together as a team. For the patients, their families, the team and others on the sidelines cheering you on from all corners of the world, don’t quit, reach that summit and know you are making a difference!
Off the Mountain, Back to Life
Wednesday, October 12
What an incredible experience Machu Picchu was this summer! My hike to celebrate my journey of 10 years, LIVING with multiple myeloma. The sights, the people, the relationships and the connections I found to into the myeloma community have been amazing. The hike has impacted me as a patient, finding a new community of others who are passionate, are caring, and are committed to the cure through the MMRF. The grace, determination and the efforts of this group amaze me as I learn more about the programs, the research, the fundraising and the people.
 
Since I returned back from Peru over a month ago, I have learned that I am back in “Prime Time” in fighting my disease as the next step in my journey. The biggest part of me is influenced with gratitude for LIVING with disease these past 10 years. And the intriguing part for me now, as I take new aim at my personal fight, is how much has changed on the landscape of treatments, drugs and therapies. And while I hate the part of beginning a new battle ground, I am empowered with knowledge, and choices and research that are making a difference, today, for me. In this fight against Multiple Myeloma. And for that I am grateful.
 
I attended a MMRF Patient Summit in Chicago in September not only to share my story, but to connect with professionals, doctors and researchers who have the latest and most up to date knowledge about this disease, that currently has no cure. I connected with others who chatted with me, made recommendations and shared their insight. I found terrific resources available through the MMRF for me discussing treatment options, therapies, drugs, and clinical trials, new drugs on the market and current information.
 
All of this has allowed me to gain valuable knowledge to be my own advocate, asking questions to know which treatments might fit my disease and lifestyle best. All of this, because of a 10 year celebration living with disease, because of a personal Victory Lap, because of a Mountain to Climb in Peru. Because of people who care deeply about finding a cure.
 
When I was diagnosed at the age of 42 years old with MM, the average life expectancy for people like me was five to seven years. A game changer for me. Since then, I am living PROOF, that RESEARCH is the game changer in this disease. Partnerships like that of MMRF, Takeda Oncology, CURE Magazine and others make a difference for people like me. Having cancer allows me to live my life with intention, to not let the little things in life derail me (most days) from what’s important. Because, I know with me, I want to LIVE my life with cancer, not have cancer and live my life.
 
 
 
Reflections on Sacred Valley
Saturday, August 13
I learned a lot yesterday about the Incas and their grit, determination and patience as we climbed to the Sun Temple as a day-trip stop along the way to our Machu Picchu destination. We climbed over 200 steps to the top to reach the Sun Temple that the Inca people built above Sacred Valley in Peru. This temple, built and established sometime in the 1400s really blew my mind when thinking in terms of today's architecture, bulldozers, computer-designed solutions, and technology to troubleshoot answers before we sometimes even know the problem. To build this Temple, manpower was the only solution. Huge granite rocks were quarried from a mountain across the way, dragged with huge long ropes by many men to the river. Then, the boulders would sit until dry season, were dragged across the dry river bed, up the other side of another mountain, and carefully put in place to build this meticulous structure. The little things made a difference — not with computer-generated architectural plans, bulldozers and excavation equipment. The Incas planned, in their primitive ways, expansion joints for when the earth moved. They prepared a drainage system from rock, gravel and moss in the terraced sides of the mountain to prevent erosion and preserve the water that would drain below to use as a natural water system. They meticulously tracked the summer and winter solstice to predict the seasons for wet or dry season, to plant or harvest. It's not like they had a 12-month calendar showing the longest and shortest days of the year. You think of the incredible work that was done, one by one, that together made such an impact, still standing today to tell a story, and I was amazed.

Cancer is like that. The little things make a difference. Grit, determination and patience tell the story. Cancer today, compared to even 20 years ago really blows my mind. As a 10-year survivor of multiple myeloma, I continue to be amazed and overwhelmed by this journey. Being a part of this group through MMRF, climbing Machu Picchu, raising funds and hiking together is an awesome sense of community, adventure and accomplishment. The advances of drug therapies in the last 10 years for myeloma and many cancers can't even begin to compare to the long, slow tedious journey of the Incas. Yet like their journey, who, one by one, made a difference; carving steps, temples and cities in stone with little to nothing but manpower. We too are, one by one, carving out a difference, raising funds and awareness together and one step at a time, moving mountains, making an impact, standing together and telling our story. And once again, I am amazed.
Thankful for Mountains
Tuesday, July 26
I open one eye and blink towards the blue illuminated numbers showing 5:50 a.m. With a stretch, I roll over and slip one foot on the floor, gently sliding out of bed.  I dress in the dark, tip-toe past my husband, and quietly close the bedroom door behind me. Next, I creep past the dog in his kennel (who doesn’t miss a thing), giving me a quiet whimper-yawn as I sneak out the front door to my bike locked up on the front porch. It feels like it must be nearly 80 degrees and the humidity seems 90 percent as I swing my leg over my bike and roll down the driveway to begin my ride. Still sleepy, and with a yawn, I whisper “Thank you God” as I get myself ready to bike some hills, pump my legs and get my heart racing for six to seven miles of bike trails.
 
They say it takes the benefits of regular exercise for six to eight weeks to appear, and the investment in your health will be invaluable. I do feel stronger, and my husband even says I move like I’m stronger, as I’ve been doing this now for over six weeks now. Thank you God. A lot of people would be looking at this as terrific progress in creating a healthy habit of morning exercise, but to be honest, I am counting the days until I can quit! Walking and yoga are much more my style for sure. 
 
But I am in training, getting ready for my personal Super Bowl if you will, because in less than a month I will be hiking the Inca Trail up Machu Picchu in Peru with a team of 20 people, most of whom I’ve never met. So I’m doing my best to get this bod in shape, as the better shape I’m in, the more I will enjoy the trek up 11,000 feet in the Andes Mountains to one of the most incredible places on earth. The hike is quite a reach for me. I’m not a hiker (haven’t hiked in 30 years since high school!) and I’m really not a biker (not since college when I peddled around 40 hours a week as a bike cop --OK bike patrol is the right language -- for two summers.)
 
But this is like a victory lap I am excited to be working toward. See I am a survivor, and this year I am celebrating a big victory. And as I pondered a way to celebrate, or give back, and be thankful, I became aware of an opportunity to raise funds and awareness for multiple myeloma (a blood cancer) through a program called Moving Mountains for Myelmona (MM4MM), through Takeda Oncology. As I learned about the opportunity, it seemed surreal that I could hike one of the most celebrated places on Earth to benefit others with cancer! The team consists of multiple myeloma patients, caregivers, doctors, nurses and researchers who have come together to raise funds and awareness for research.
 
Ten years ago this October I had a stem cell transplant for multiple myeloma with the life expectancy at the time of five to seven years. I remember making the decision to take on this hike (and certainly jump out of my box) in January, being able to raise funds and awareness as I trained for the journey. It wasn’t really about the hike or about the mountain or even about this beautiful place, but rather a way to celebrate these 10 amazing and remarkable years of LIVING. Thank you God! Since then I’ve been climbing my own “mountain,” every day, one step after another, just keeping on keeping on -- working through remission, and relapse, and chemo drugs, pushing through the physical burdens to take another breath and appreciate the gift of every day's “view.” 
 
So as I train and climb my mountain, I have so much to be thankful for, EVERY DAY. Having cancer allows me to live my life with intention, to not let the little things in life derail me (most days!) from what’s important. My gratitude builds as I train for my climb. And I’m counting the days to getting back to walking and yoga!  Thank you God!
 
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