I've always had a bucket list. Topping the list was to reach Everest Base Camp. However, a series of health events caused me to "scratch" Everest off my list.
(1) In 2000, I was 44 years old and I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even after treatment I still believed I could get to Base Camp.
(2) In 2009, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. When you're told by a doctor that you have an incurable disease that will progress over time, all you can do is put you head in your hands and cry. This threw me for a loop, but in the back of my mind I had not given up hope of completing my bucket list.
(3) In 2011 I was again diagnosed with breast cancer, this time a more aggressive type. That little black cloud just seemed to keep following me. This time my treatment was more difficult, and I finally realized that Base Camp was a pipe dream.
I finished chemotherapy in March 2012. So far, so good. As I said, however, there is no cure for Parkinson's. Medication, diet, and exercise are key components in keeping my Parkinson's under control.
So life went on and the dream of Everest faded away. That is, until a friend told me about the Scripps Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorder Center in La Jolla, California. Miracles do happen, and here is my story.
Ain't No Mountain High Enough
When I was going through chemotherapy last winter I was re-united with Greg, an old high school friend who also was going through chemo for lung cancer. Sadly, he passed away in August. While talking to Greg's brother I mentioned my bucket list and the fact that I would never complete it. Incredibly, he told me that a group of Parkinson's patients from Scripps will be going to Base Camp in 2013! He also told me that the same group summitted Mt. Kilimanjaro last year. I wrote a letter to the Scripps team in early September to express my interest in joining them; two weeks later they said they would be "honored" (I think it's the other way around) to have me. So : this is how it all began!
Climbing For A Cause: Summit4StemCell
The Scripps Everest group is led by Sherrie Gould, a nurse practitioner at the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorder Center. Sherrie works with Dr. Melissa Houser who, along with Jeanne Loring, Ph.D. at the the Scripps Center For Regenerative Medicine/Loring Lab, is conducting non-embryonic stem cell research that will result in a viable treatment for Parkinson's. I recently visited Scripps and I had a chance to tour the Loring Lab and to meet some of the other folks who are going to Everest with me. I saw up close the work that Drs. Loring and Houser are doing and it truly is amazing. In fact, the Nobel Price was recently awarded to a Japanese doctor who is working on the very same thing!
Sherrie was instrumental in forming Summit4StemCell, a grass roots organization whose goal is to raise money for this research. In addition, we all hope that the work of Summit4StemCell will inspire people living with Parkinson's to move beyond their physical limitations. From Kilimanjaro to Everest Base Camp, we all climb for the same cause!
All donations received will support the following:
(1) Summit4StemCell (50% of all donations)
(2) The trip and the cost of equipment for the team (the remaining 50%)
We welcome both corporate and individual sponsors. Any donations that exceed our goal of $50,000 will be donated to Summit4StemCell. It might sound ambitious, but the cause is worth every penny! My hope is that we exceed our goal so that we can continue the Scripps research and see it come to fruition.
I've attached the first installment of a video documentary series that will follow me and the group from Training Base Camp!
© All content Evelyn G. Heilbrunn
Thank you in advance for your generous donations.
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