"We climbed up to a little over 18,000 feet," smiles Leslie Katich, who is fresh off a trip to Nepal. Leslie and her daughter, Kristin Sumbot, were chosen out of 1,500 applicants to be part of the annual Above + Beyond Cancer program, which organizes demanding trips for cancer survivors - including Kristin. Now in remission, she was diagnosed with Leukemia five years ago as a teenager.
After trudging through life's lows together, Kristin and Leslie decided to experience the highs - both figuratively and literally. They committed to climbing another mountain, but this one by choice. They met up with 34 other Americans in Nepal. They all had different stories and different diagnoses, but they all agreed to become advocates for other people fighting cancer. In fact, the goal of Above + Beyond Cancer is to bring cancer survivors and caregivers together to cultivate compassion and reduce the burden of cancer on a global level.
The group started their trek in Katmandu where they visited a cancer hospital. Leslie says it was very primitive. The hospital was simply a few outbuildings, surrounded by overgrown weeds and little technology. "We have nothing to complain about here," she realized. The life expectancy rate is poor in Nepal. So meeting the hikers brought joy and hope to the locals. "They were so excited because they don't see cancer survivors in Nepal, let alone cancer survivors who were fit and capable of climbing."
The group climbed for 14 days and rested at villages. They carried their own packs and worked together to reach their destination – the base of Mount Kailash. It has long been considered a sacred mountain and it is where emotional and spiritual ceremonies take place. Remember the Tibetan prayer flags northern Nevadans signed in honor of locals who have fought cancer, who are fighting cancer and who have lost their battle to cancer? Well, Leslie and Kristin carried nearly 400 flags up with them and they put them on display to show the world northern Nevada cancer survivors, fighters and patients are not alone; they're not forgotten. "You know them, their names, their struggles and you see them flying in the wind and the beautiful blue sky. And you just hope the little part I did for them was enough."
Although Kristin is in remission, she and her mother have vowed to continue their fight. They have committed to become advocates for others, to raise awareness and to provide hope that there can be life after cancer. As Leslie reflects, "Almost five years ago [Kristin] was in the hospital fighting for her life, but here she is climbing in the Himalayas now."
Saturday, May 25 2013 2:16 AM EDT2013-05-25 06:16:04 GMT
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