Take one more step. Above + Beyond Cancer’s motto since its founding in 2011 succinctly conveys the thoughts going through the heads of cancer survivors and caretakers as they climbed the tallest peak in Africa earlier this month. The group was led by Above + Beyond Cancer’s founder and Mercy Cancer Center Medical Director Dr. Richard Deming.
The journey – which Dr. Deming refers to as a pilgrimage because it involved both risk and renewal -- consisted of both a medical mission and the physical challenge of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. The traveling group was made up of 40 people, including 16 cancer survivors. They were men and women age 20 to 66, with diverse backgrounds and professions. Included in the group were college students, nurses, teachers, an Episcopal minister, a banker and a state employee. The group included cancer survivors of many different types of cancer including lymphoma, sarcoma, breast cancer, prostate cancer, pancreas cancer, testicular cancer, colon cancer, brain cancer and uterine cancer. Some of the survivors had successfully completed treatment several years ago, other were still in the process of receiving on-going treatment for incurable cancer.
The medical mission portion of the trip involved helping build a Hope Lodge in Nairobi, Kenya. Kenya has just one public cancer treatment center, Kenyatta National Hospital, where those without insurance can receive treatment. Patients travel from hundreds of miles to receive treatment at the center and until the completion of the Hope Lodge, have no place to stay while receiving care. The Above + Beyond Cancer team spent three days at the hospital meeting with patients and staff, learning about the challenges of providing and receiving cancer care in Kenya and performing a service project at the hospital.
After completing the service project at the hospital, the group ventured to Africa, where they summited Mount Kilimanjaro on Jan. 12. The guides said they don’t think there had ever been a group as large, with such a success rate. Dr. Deming said, “I get choked up just thinking about it. There is nothing in the world that compares to being with a group that has come together around a cause and a higher purpose.”
Read Dr. Deming's complete summary of the pilgrimage here.