Ovarian Cancer Canada

Western Regional Blog – BC, YK, AB, NWT and Nunavut

Step 1: kick cancer Step 2: climb mountain

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania


As a cancer survivor, I have undergone amazing procedures and remarkable experiences I never thought would touch my life. Being inserted like a turkey into the MRI machine. So many blood draws. Twenty-four times hooked up to IV and IP chemo. Friends asking: How ARE you? Seeing tears in the eyes of my doctor who has known me for 30 years. Accepting help.

And when you’re through it all (remission) you might think that if you beat cancer you can do anything. This remarkable sense of power and confidence might be what some call, “the gift of cancer”. I don’t go that far but I do know that after all that treatment, you tend to think there isn’t anything you can’t do.

images-8I was trying to encourage some of the more enthusiastic hikers and climbers of my outdoors club to join The Expedition of Hope, the September 2013 climb of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It’s an 8-day trek to raise awareness of ovarian cancer as well as $150,000 to support Ovarian Cancer Canada.  There are 2.5 porters and guides per climber to carry your pack, erect your tent, and cook up your dinner while you walk for 5 to 6 hours a day through bush-land, rainforest, grasslands, alpine desert and finally, the ice cap of the volcano.


At 5,895 metres (19,341 feet) Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain, and the highest freestanding mountain in the world. It’s become the go-to place to raise donations for disease (ovarian cancer, Alzheimer’s, polio) and employs hundreds of guides and porters to support the fundraising efforts of well-heeled North Americans.

Expedition leader Macon Dunnaghan was in Vancouver last week to inspire trekkers to join. Macon’s wife, Michelle, died of ovarian cancer and 156576_187648041371055_1884813694_nevery September, he tackles the mountain in her memory. He’s done it 26 times now, leading climbers aged 12 to 80 up the dry and dusty trail. Macon explained that in the 34 hours that lead up to the sunrise summit, you burn 15,000 calories. It’s high altitude and there’s no dilly-dallying on the peak. Quick photos, unfurl the Ovarian Cancer Canada flag, add our name to the board and it’s down we go.


When the second outdoor club member congratulated me on joining The Expedition of Hope, I wondered what I wrote to make them think I was up for the challenge. And then I began to think: Why not?

I have been provided with a remarkable opportunity to live my life in good health right now. While I have a disease that promises to return and significantly shorten my life, my time is now free to restore my health, challenge my body and contribute to the world as best I can.

images-7Climb a mountain? Maybe.

If you’d like to join me on The Expedition of Hope, polish up your hiking boots and contact Tracy Kolwich, Pacific Regional Manager of Ovarian Cancer Canada.


Toll free: 1-800-749-9310 
Tel: 604-676-3431

  • The Expedition of Hope gets underway Monday, September 23 – Saturday 28, 2013
  • Hikers arrive in Tanzania on September 21 or 22.
  • Participants commit to raise $2,500
  • Participants pay their own expedition fees: $1,470 USD or $1,560USD (depending on route climbed) and return airfare to Tanzania (approximately $1,500)



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Rochelle van Halm is an ovarian cancer survivor, mother and writer who enjoys downhill skiing. She writes a personal blog Cancer Queen.

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