Friday, 28 October 2011

The story behind The Climb

Many people are wondering about "The Climb" that I am trying to raise funds to go to Conference with.  Here's the story from none other than the executive director of YACC, Geoff Eaton.

"Climb 2011

It started 12 years ago. The first Climb wasn’t really a climb at all. In fact it was a walk from my hospital bed where I stayed to the couch, in the temporary bedroom that was my mom’s family room. It was five steps—and they were giant.

After my first transplant (from my dad) in April 1999, I stayed in Toronto for three months. Finally in early July I returned home to Newfoundland to continue my recovery. The idea to create YACC (formerly RealTime Cancer) was born many months prior to this but as I came home from Toronto I really started to think about my well documented, but private goal, to start YACC by June 2000.

I woke up late night one Saturday night—July 25, 1999 to be exact—with the rygers and a temp. I went straight to the ER where my temp continued to rise. After five hours of the worst pain I’d had in my life, I got three hits of morphine. That is the last thing I remember for a month.

I went to the ICU later that day where I continued to lose ground. My Hickman catheter, my best friend for nine months saving so many needles, had developed an infection. Unknowingly I flushed that infection into my central line earlier that Saturday night when cleaning my Hickman before bed.

It was a week before I was put on life-support and placed in a drug-induced coma. That week, I shared my plans for my funeral with my parents, which I had planned privately earlier in my journey (and yes, Sinatra’s “My Way” was on the playlist). I gave my last wishes to my parents for the few precious possessions I had in my life to that point.

My docs explained to my family that “transplant patients don’t do well on life-support but at this point it’s Geoff’s best chance to battle this infection.” Under I went.

I was on life-support for three and a half weeks, I went into septic shock, had dozens of blood transfusions, my family was called in several times as my docs confirmed “it could be any hour now.” Ultimately my chances were less than 2 per cent. Good thing for me, 1 per cent is not 0 per cent. On August 23, 1999, my docs started to wake me from my coma.

Confused and simple, I had no idea what had happened. It took over a month for me to begin to get the slightest grasp what I had experienced. I was forced to rebuild in a manner I had never imagined, and while the physical rebuild was massive it was compounded by the fact that for the first time in my journey my mind wasn’t strong. I was unsure and scared.

I did manage to get a handle on next challenge: learning to walk again. When I woke, I couldn’t do anything for myself, except breathe—a major accomplish, I realize. My body was wasted from its efforts to fight the infections.

I wanted to get back on my feet and so my simple mind focused on a not-so-simple task. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to walk, it was that I had no strength. My mom’s family room became my gym. On September 20, 1999, after two and half weeks of “work-outs,” I took those massive tiny first steps—five of them—from my hospital bed to my couch. The Climb was born that day.

The next year, after nailing my goal of starting YACC in June 2000, I wanted to mark the first anniversary of my first steps after ICU. There was no better place than to climb Signal Hill, a place I have frequented my whole life to hike, hang-out, and often reflect, especially during times of trial and throughout my journey.

It was a family/friend affair the first year; 170 of us went up the hill. We’ve done it every year since, but the event has evolved as the years have come and gone. There have been Climbs all over the world, literally: across Canada, Ireland, and Japan. For the past two years, we have brought it into the Survivor Conference. That is where it will stay for the foreseeable future.

The evolution of The Climb hasn’t just been in numbers and locations, but in purpose. It is now much less about my personal milestone and much more about beating the odds—something I know all of you know all about.

This year’s Climb will see us tackle a 5 km walk that will end on Parliament Hill as a part of the program on Saturday November 6.

In addition to the celebration of beating the odds, The Climb serves as a fundraiser to help pay for your travel to the Conference.

Raising money is totally up to you, but any money you fundraise will help offset the cost of your personal travel or that of other survivors to get the conference. The money is great, don’t get me wrong, but The Climb was always more about the message than the money. It’s just another option we provide for anyone who requires travel assistance.

Can’t wait to bring The Climb to Ottawa; hope you are up for it.

Live life. Love life.


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