Almost four years ago I found out from a routine annual physical that I had CLL, chronic lymphocytic leukemia. CLL is a cancer that affects a type of white blood cell called a "lymphocyte." Lymphocytes help your body fight infection. They're made in the soft center of your bones, called the marrow. If you have CLL, your body makes an abnormally high number of lymphocytes that aren't working right. After many tests, ultrasounds and X-rays, I was told that I have the best possible type of CLL. As my doctor said, I should live decades with the disease since it is very slow growing. I was elated with the diagnosis and every six months I must go for blood work to see if my lymphocyte count has gone up significantly. I wouldn’t be truthful if I said that I didn’t worry about it twice a year right before I go for my blood work. So far, the doctors have been right and my lymphocyte count has stayed pretty much the same for the past four years.
One of my mah jongg friends told me about an organization called Team Survivor Northwest. TSNW is a non-profit agency dedicated to empowering women who have had a cancer diagnosis to survive and thrive through fitness, health and wellness services. The first event I plan on joining with the organization is their climb to the summit of Mt. Adams, Washington’s second highest mountain at 12,281 feet. I have been an avid hiker since I retired nine years ago but have never done any backpacking. The thought of carrying a 25-40 pound pack, no shower for three days, and the bathroom situation (I don’t even want to talk about it!) had put backpacking on the back burner until now. Last weekend I went on the first training hike for Mt. Adams with an amazing group of women who are going on the trip. Some of them are hikers, some of them are not, some of them are survivors and some of them have just completed treatments but they are still up for the challenge of summiting Mt. Adams. They were truly an inspiration for me and make me want to be part of their journey.
I will be hiking in memory of a childhood friend, Sharon Harrison, who recently passed away from ovarian cancer. Sharon fought hard for six years battling this terrible disease but it eventually overcame her. I can’t think of a better tribute to her than to take her picture with me up to the top of Mt. Adams.
I have committed to raising $2,500 for TSNW in my journey to the top. If you are able to help me reach my goal to help other women fighting cancer, I say thank you in advance. No donation is too big or small. I look forward to sending out a picture of me in early August at the summit of Mt. Adams.