While Above & Beyond Cancer has always focused on new beginnings for survivors, this year’s trip also continues a story that started in April of 2011 on Above & Beyond Cancer’s first trip to Everest Basecamp. The ABC Team relied on a skilled group of Sherpas to help them reach Everest Basecamp, and among these Sherpas was an extraordinary woman named Ang Lhakpa Sherpa.
Dehydration and fatigue took their toll on two members of the team before they reached Everest Basecamp and the team decided it would be in their best interest to descend the mountain. Ang Lhakpa jumped at the chance to help these two climbers in any way possible. Ang Lhakpa radiates compassion and goodwill; it’s in the wideness and ease of her smile, as well as in her open and capable hands, which continually beckon you to come sit, or in this particular case, get you safely down a mountain.
Ang Lhakpa guided the two climbers back down the mountain and took them to her village of Khumjung ,where she spent two days hosting them and taking them on small treks outside of her village. During the course of the Everest Basecamp expedition, and a subsequent expedition unfolded, Ang Lhakpa noticed that she was tiring more easily and experiencing extreme shortness of breath; journeys that would normally take her less than a day to complete, turned into painful two-day treks. Her other-directed disposition kept her from seeking medical help immediately, but when she and her husband, Lhakpa Sherpa realized she was quite ill and subsequently found out her diagnosis of Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, the first person they thought to call was Dr. Richard Deming.
In July 2011, Dr. Deming received a phone call from Lhakpa Sherpa who was frantic over his wife, Ang Lhakpa’s, diagnosis. Lhakpa was distressed about the course of her treatment, as well as her access to the medicines and the care she needed most. Dr. Deming ‘s response was simple and direct and reflected all that his foundation stands for: “We will figure this out together, Lhakpa,” which is exactly what Above & Beyond Cancer and our Sherpa friends on the other side of the world did.
Partnering with The Max Foundation and Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Ang Lhakpa is provided with Gleevac, and transportation to and from her treatment and check ups at Patton Hospital in Kathmandu. This drug, and Ang Lhakpa’s access to it, would not be possible without Above & Beyond Cancer and its partners. .
Ang Lhakpa’s and the foundation’s story comes full circle as she helps the Above & Beyond Team trek to Imja Tse. On the first day of our journey from Lukla, Ang Lhakpa trekked hand-in-hand with one of our team members from the base of the trail to our lodge in Peck Kang. This trekker, exploring her own new beginning, had a bit of a difficulty acclimating to the altitude and the rigors of the trek; with the help of Ang Lhakpa’s compassionate and capable hands, our ABC team member arrived in Phakding, stronger, more self-aware, and filled with gratitude.