Jennifer McKenna

Being a Part of Something Bigger
Friday, July 12
I had never done any personal fundraising before but have known many who have and I try to always be supportive with a donation. My husband has run the Boston marathon twice and raised money for Dana Farber. All of the events around his marathon team were so inspiring and I have wanted to do something like this for a long time.  When my friend Heather told me about MM4MM’s hike up Mt. Washington, I immediately said yes. I love hiking and I see firsthand every day as an oncology nurse practitioner how important research is to move the field forward and prolong lives and eventually, hopefully someday, turn incurable cancers, in to chronic illnesses that need to be managed, much like diabetes or high blood pressure. The opportunity to fundraise for cancer research and hike at the same time seemed to good to be true.  

As the weekend grew closer, I was more and more excited. Our training hikes got longer and longer, and Heather and I felt prepared to conquer Mt. Washington. But I was not prepared for how rewarding the whole experience would be. Meeting our team members in person, after exchanging emails and reading bios and team phone calls, was so moving. Everyone had their stories of their connections to myeloma. Some of our team had lost family members very recently to myeloma. And even one (Richard) was himself diagnosed with myeloma an amazing 15 years ago. I think we were all crying by the end of introductions at our team dinner.  Lauren had lost her husband just last year and was sitting at the end of the table.  Heather got up and moved her to sit in between a group of us. She told us about her husband and their journey through his myeloma treatment and ultimately his passing. I knew she needed to tell her and her husband’s story. She showed us pictures of him and of their family, and most special, pictures of their baby granddaughter. I was surrounded by good people coming together to raise money for myeloma, to challenge themselves with a tough hike, but there was so much more to this weekend than that.  

Soon after introductions, we learned that the forecast was going to get in the way of our planned hike and that we likely would not be able to do our originally planned hike, probably would not be able to summit, and might not be able to stay in the hut overnight. Everyone was disappointed, but rolled with it. After all, dealing with cancer brings all kinds of surprises (good and bad) and changes of plans. Dealing with the rollercoaster of cancer prepares you for more than you realize. 

We started the hike early Saturday morning with a plan for a long day hike to avoid dangerous conditions. We got wet but also saw a lot of sunshine. The hike was more challenging than I had imagined. We all stuck together as a group and pushed and pulled each other up big boulders along the way, shared stories, laughs, snacks and even water and electrolytes. We also helped each other up after falls - there were a few on the way down when the rocks and roots were slippery (I have the bruises to prove it). Along the way I was able to chat with most everyone in the group. I love that everyone was from different parts of the country and Richard was even from England, although now lives in California. The views on Mt. Washington were just stunning. I have lived in New England most of my life and have never hiked in the White Mountains. Just so beautiful. And I was so honored to share the experience with people from all over the country. 

I managed to meet my fundraising goal of $10,000! Never did I think I could raise that much but I have a lot of generous friends and family. I got my message out often on facebook and with emails. I shared some great stories (like running in to an old co-worker/friend while on a training hike who I had not seen in 10 years - turns out his wife was diagnosed with myeloma about six years ago) and posted some fun pictures along the way. I was really amazed and touched by all of the donations I received. I learned about connections to myeloma that I was not aware of. The last donation I received the day I got back from Mt. Washington was from a friend who lost his Dad to myeloma in 1996. A lot has changed for multiple myeloma treatment since then, and he was so happy to contribute to ongoing research that will benefit those who have come after his Dad.

This whole experience changed me. I felt like I was apart of something bigger. I was inspired by those I hiked with. I was in awe of the beauty of the White Mountains. I was proud of the hike and the fundraising that I did. I can’t wait to do it all again. Bring on the next mountain.
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