The Aftermath

by Claudia Crosetti

Over a year has passed since I joined my fellow teammates on the Expedition Inspiration climb of Mt. Aconcagua—the highest mountain in the western hemisphere located in Argentina near the Chilean border. Besides helping our summit team reach the top of this 23,000 foot mountain, our goal was to raise awareness of breast cancer and instill hope in other women that many of us do survive this disease and go on to do great things. The climb was a striking metaphor for all that one experiences while coping with cancer and it's treatments: facing adversity and a fear of the unknown; taking one step at a time; the importance of friends, family and care providers to help you through; and discovering a reservoir of strength that lies within each of us. To say that the climb of Mt. Aconcagua was an important part of my healing process is an understatement indeed. Among other benefits, I regained a trust in my body that I lost when I was diagnosed with cancer: standing at 16, 250 feet (my personal summit) I knew I was physically stronger than ever before and felt ready to move on with my life (not to suggest that one must scale a mountain to come to this realization)—perhaps I gravitate to the dramatic.

Since the climb, my local teammate, Nancy Johnson, and I have presented close to 20 slide shows in both Mendocino and Sonoma counties, which has proven to be a very positive way of enlightening and educating people and a great vehicle for raising funds in support of local health organizations. Fellow team members across the U.S. are doing the same—staging fundraising events, sponsoring local hike-a-thons and continuing to share the inspiration and awareness-raising with others. A one-hour documentary of the climb was televised on PBS last summer and has been shown at events nationwide. Copies of the documentary are available on loan at: Mendocino College Library, The American Cancer Society, and the Mendocino Cancer Resource Center (in Mendocino).

Another of Expedition Inspiration's goals was to raise 2.3 million dollars ($100 per foot). To date our team has collectively raised two million. The Breast Cancer Fund, which is the fundraising organization for Expedition Inspiration, is distributing these funds to cutting-edge research projects, education and psycho-social support for people dealing with breast cancer. They are particularly interested in supporting research to help find earlier means of detection (something earlier than mammography and self-breast exam) and for researching the possible environmental link to the disease. To all of you who supported our climb, I am pleased to report that The Breast Cancer Fund has awarded a grant to the newly formed Mendocino Cancer Resource Center (MCRC) for a computer, printer and modem. MCRC, located in Mendocino, has resource services available to people diagnosed with all types of cancer and is available to all residents of Mendocino County (for information call 937-3833.) While I'm on the subject of resources, a drop-in support group has recently been formed free of charge to women facing cancer in all stages of their disease from diagnosis and beyond (for information call 463-4137.) Also, a Women's Cancer Advocacy Network called WeCan has recently been formed. This network of trained community volunteers provides information and support to women who need screening, diagnostic testing and treatment for breast cancer. (For more information on obtaining advocacy services or joining the network call 937-3833.)

This past year people continue to ask me "what will you climb next?" Much to their disillusionment, I have responded "I think next I'll lay on the beach for awareness." Which is precisely what I ended up doing this year—Mazie the Lazy Bird headed south for the beaches of Mazatlan for a week at sea level with lots of great plumbing, no back pack and plenty of R&R.

Thanks again to all of you who have supported me in my efforts to give back to other woman what I have learned from my disease.

Copyright Mendocino College Eagle 1995
Permission granted to excerpt or use this article if source is cited

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Last Update: 5/21/96