Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Climbing Kilimanjaro for Ovarian Cancer

It has been nearly 9 years since my last check up at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto with my cancer specialists.  As I was part of an ongoing life long follow up, I decided I should find out if anyone is looking for me.  Being part of a clinical trial in 1985, it is important to track the long term effects of chemotherapy and how they affect someone throughout their life.  Read my story here.

They were advertising a study on ovarian cancer and fertility through the University of Toronto.  I got in touch with them but I didn't qualify as they were looking for patients who had received treatment after 2000.  They put me in touch with Ovarian Cancer Canada

Mount Maunganui
I sent an email, sharing my story and was contacted a few days later.  They were happy to hear from me and asked if I would be interested in joining them on their upcoming Expedition of Hope - to Mount Kilimanjaro September 2013.  Before I had time to think about it, I said YES! 

This is right up my alley.  

So where is Mount Kilimanjaro?  That was my first question.  My second question was, "How high is this Mountain?" 

I live in Mount Maunganui and I've climbed that numerous times. I've hiked high in the Swiss Alps.  I did the Tongariro Alpine Crossing last year too.  That was hard, but we did it in 5 1/2 hours.  How hard can Kilimanjaro be?

Mount Maunganui is an extinct volcano and it is 232 meters (761 feet) above sea level.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 19.4km trek which passes over the active volcanic terrain of Mount Tongariro.  It is 1,886 metres (6,188 feet) above sea level.

Reaching the summit of Mount Tongariro.  
Emerald Lakes at the Summit of Mount Tongariro.  
Mount Kilimanjaro is actually 3 volcanos in Tanzania (two are extinct and the largest one is dormant).  It is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free standing mountain in the world at 5,895 metres  (19,341 feet).  GULP.  

Did I fail to mention that I don't really "like" climbing mountains?  I'd really much rather do yoga thank you very much.

I started to read about Kilimanjaro but the more I read, the more freaked out I got.  So I started to devise a plan.

I strongly believe that when things present themselves like this, you are meant to do them.  Feel the fear and do it anyway.  That is my motto.  

I began talking to people and telling them what I was intending to do.  I got a variety of reactions - everything from instant excitement and encouragement to terror and worry for my well being.  Some thought I was crazy but most think this is a very Tracy Pepper thing to do.  I will do it.  

My favourite reaction was from a client of mine who's first response was, "Wow, you are going to have a great ass!"  

I'm a problem solver.  The first thing I do when I have a project to tackle is  to write a list of what I need to do to achieve my goal.  Then I brainstorm ideas.  My mind ticks over and I come up with a zillion ideas.  

In order to join the Expedition of Hope I will need to raise at least $2,500 for Ovarian Cancer Canada.  Then there is the cost of flights and of the 6 day trek which will be approximately $8,000CAD.  Add on top of that the cost of my flights to Canada so I can fly with the group (and visit my family).  I need to raise at least $11,000CAD.  That isn't including the costs of equipment or of lost earnings from time off work.

I will have to do some fundraising.  

Then I came up with an idea.  Why not do a documentary about this journey?  It is a journey of hope.  The world needs more hope.

I contacted my friend Nicola Reilly who owns Foreverfit - an online gym that promotes the idea of healthy living through simple, basic eating plans and exercise routines that you can do just about anywhere.  Nicola and I filmed a series of yoga videos together last year.  She'd be the perfect person to help whip me into shape and film the process.  Lucky for me, she was keen to jump on board.

But there is still a lot more that needs to be done.  So I contacted my good friend from childhood, another Valley Girl, Michelle Murray who is a media mogul.  She ran the marketing campaign for Keep A Breast for a number of years plus she helped to organize the Pemberton Music Festival in British Columbia.  She is multi-talented.  She's a blogger and and amazing chef and person in her own right.  I wondered whether she might be able to squeeze in some time to help out an old friend.  She was honoured I asked.  

I've been in touch with the Gynecological Cancer Foundation here in New Zealand to see if they might help.  They were keen to get involved.  

I will get in touch with CanTeen New Zealand and Camp Oochigeas as well.  

I have dozens of friends who want to help.  I am going to need lots of it, even if it's just in the form of support and trekking buddies.  My friend Jo is going to do some of the tough workouts with me (we did boot camp together in 2010).  I am going to meet with an Exercise Physiologist to make sure my heart is going to withstand the endurance and the altitude.

Altitude is my biggest worry.  People die from altitude sickness.  Some people don't get to finish Kilimanjaro due to altitude issues.  I don't want to get that far and have to turn back.  I want to be prepared.
Swiss Alps with Mont Blanc in the background

So now that my team is coming together, it's time to make the commitment and to fully announce that I will be joining Ovarian Cancer Canada on their Expedition of Hope to Mount Kilimanjaro 

The expedition will be lead by a man by the name of Macon Dunnagan.  He is an American who lost his Canadian wife to ovarian cancer in 2007.  Macon summits Kilimanjaro every September in her honour. This will be his 30th climb.   You can watch his video invitation to join him in September 2013 by clicking here.

I'd like to raise enough money so that I can attend the Love Her events happening around Canada.  An evening of fashion, comedy, cocktails, auction and music.  The first one is on February 28th in Toronto.  I'll need to raise about $5000 to attend each event.  There are three of them.  It's a long shot, but if I don't try then I'll never know.  That would give me a chance to go into Head Office and meet the team who are making this possible.  

My goal is to raise as much money as possible to support the charities that do so much to look after the ones who need them most.  The greatest portion will go to Ovarian Cancer Canada for putting together the expedition in the first place.  I would also like to donate proceeds to the charities that are very near and dear to my own heart and soul.

Climbing Kilimanjaro is the perfect ending to my story.  It's the ultimate metaphor for someone who has been told they have cancer.  It's that massive mountain that you've been told you are going to have to climb.  It seems impossible.  It's terrifying.  It's going to require a lot of hard work.  You will need a team of people to support you on the journey.  But in the end, you know that you will climb it.  All you can do is take it one step at a time.  There's no point worrying about altitude sickness or whether you can make it to the top.  You will just do the best you can.  You won't let Kilimanjaro get in the way of whatever is beyond it.  This journey is going to test your will and your determination.  You will have moments you don't think you can take another step.  It's amazing what you can achieve when you put your mind to it.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

So the journey begins.  I hope you're watching.  This is going to be a very interesting year.


Debi Bennett said...

This story is well worth reading. I have only known Tracy a short while. She was holding a yoga workshop for Ashram yoga in her home after completing her yoga training course, we share a similar spiritual name so we call our selves the Satya sisters. Satya means truth and Tracy is one of the warmest, friendliest, inclusive, unselfish,people I have ever met. To the point that you might say is she for real. But she is! this is the truth! If you take the time to read Tracy's blogs, and she is a great writer who has got some great material to write about. It has been said we are only given what we can cope with. I have no doubt this journey of hope to raise money for Ovarian cancer and the huge challenge she has undertaken will be a huge success. Tracy has what it takes to inspire people and is someone worthy of a magic hand or two ,what can you do to help make this journey legendary?

Tracy Pepper said...

Thanks for the nice character reference Deb! Please if you are reading this and you know me, leave a character reference so that my potential sponsors get a good idea of the sort of person they're dealing with!

I can't do this without your support. Thank you for reading my blog!

Anonymous said...

What a great cause, your such an amazing women with a huge heart.

Monty Peter Wesley said...

You're really an amazing, and incredibly inspiring person. I'm not even going on this expedition, but I'm somehow really excited about it. You've really got a knack for projecting your energy across the globe. I think you're just incredible. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself with everyone, and giving everyone every reason to embrace and love life. There aren't enough Tracy Peppers out there - I'm so grateful for you.

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a blog that's both equally educative and engaging, and
let me tell you, you've hit the nail on the head. The issue is something which too few folks are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy I stumbled across this during my search for something regarding this.

Gord Starling said...

The women that is taking on this challenge is the toughest, most thoughtful and one of the biggest hearts I've ever seen. Tracy is very giving and expects nothing in return. This is a wonderful cause and all my hope with be with her in her challenge.

Gord Starling