Machu Picchu2016


Erika Ocampo Florendo

The Lasting Impact of the Climb

August 18, 2016

Thursday, August 19

It's amazing to think that our big hike is now behind us and that after months of training, we were able to conquer this particular mountain. Our mountain. Of course, it was done with help from our knowledgeable guides!

Thinking about Klaas' journey — from when he was first diagnosed to present day — and seeing how physically fit he is, I'm amazed at how far we've come. He was not only able to hike the Inca trail, but he also carried a heavy backpack and was able to provide support to other team members. It's truly remarkable to me how the body can heal despite how much pain and suffering it's endured. Seeing this in the flesh reminded me, and will continue to remind me, of what a miracle life truly is.

In talking with Cindi, she reminded me that all things — no matter how small — make a difference, and how important having a strong support system is. She found strength in herself and in the people around her to take her battle against myeloma head on. I'm so proud of her big victory. Plus, wherever she's off to, if she doesn't have her direct support system with her, all she has to do is look in her bag and find her international traveling buddy, Wilson.

This experience has taught me an array of things, but one thing in particular stands out to me. Like Jeff said, it takes a lot of hands on rocks to move them up mountains to create the beauty that is Machu Picchu. It's the same for cancer research: It takes a lot of hands and hearts to eventually beat this disease and find a cure. This experience has taught me that people are capable of much more than they think, both physically and mentally. With the help of our family and friends — no matter how big or small — we can work towards a cure.

Now that I'm back from Peru, I'm getting back to my daily routine, but I can't help but smile when I think of the moments we spent together. Seeing Evelyn's face as she turned the corner and the beautiful view of Machu Picchu appeared below us was indescribable. Her smile was radiant. I am beyond grateful that she was finally able to check Machu Picchu off her bucket list.

In these moments — in helping patients achieve their milestones — is when I remember why I chose this profession. It was an incredible honor for me to hike Machu Picchu with patients, their caregivers and other myeloma supporters. I have to thank my colleagues, Takeda, CURE and the MMRF for giving me that privilege. I will always remember this trip as a truly special one.

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