As Corey McMordie makes his way up Africa’s highest peak for days on end from sunrise to sunset, he’s got plenty to keep his mind occupied. He thinks of the sacrifices of time, energy and distance from family made by those who help him up the mountain, and the commitment of funding by organizations like the American Cancer Society that help provide scholarships for cancer survivors to experience such a life-altering journey.

He can’t help but think of his fear of heights, spending the more precarious moments on the trail nervously gripping on to the shoulders offered up by the Tanzanian guides at 14,000 feet and counting.

Through the jungles, rainforest, high desert and mountain landscapes, surely he thinks about cancer. He is tracing the steps each day of 16 other survivors and hiking in honor of cancer survivors Nina Philipp and Dave Bartemes who had to turn back down the mountain when the challenge proved too grueling. He also has a far-too-personal relationship with the disease.

Corey’s grandfather – a best friend growing up – passed away from a 10-year battle with cancer when Corey was 15. Corey’s mother, Sheri, is a breast cancer survivor. And almost exactly one year after Corey’s father died from pancreatic cancer only three months out from his diagnosis, Corey himself was diagnosed. Although the terrifying C-word was painfully familiar to Corey, it had hardly crossed his mind that it would take over his life at age 27. There he was, with the doctor he knew well from frequent visits to support loved ones, discussing his own Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Corey, now 32 and three years into remission after chemo, radiation and a stem cell transplant, walks each day out here on the long path with victims of cancer and for others. He considers himself a spiritual kind of guy and believes his father and grandfather are able to watch him as he conquers his fears and inspires his group with his courage as he continues to make his way up. He tells of how he has his mother’s strength, his father’s humor and his grandpa’s smile.

“It makes me proud to be his brother,” said Corey’s younger sibling, Drew. “I really respect him and how strong he has always been through all the ups and downs that he has dealt with.”

Today Corey will swallow his pride and allow his teammates to carry his pack.

“They’re like my second family now,” he said with sincerity. “When I was going through chemo treatments, not wanting to get up to start the day, my family’s strength got me through. Now here on the mountain when I don’t think I can go on, these people are here for me to help me get to the next camp.”

Before he’s even reached the top, Corey is already looking toward what the future will bring beyond cancer, beyond the mountain.

“I don’t want this to just be an event,” he told the group at this morning’s announcements. “I want this to be an ongoing journey. I would do anything for all of you, give you the shirt off my back, invite you into my home. I hope we celebrate birthdays and are there for each other for checkup appointments. I hope this will not be the end. You’re like family to me”

One of our group members mentioned that from atop Kilimanjaro, one can see more of the earth than from any other place on the planet. Perhaps it’s possible that Corey can wave to his mother to show her how strong he is.

And maybe from such great heights, he’ll be able to show his grandpa that he still has his smile.


25 Responses to “For Those Below and Above”

  1. Rhonda Spain

    I am so proud of all of you…you are almost there. Hopefully our prayers and thoughts can help push you up the rest of the way. Love you, Kerri.

  2. Kathy Wennihan

    way to go corey you rock! Kathy

  3. Debbie Avitt

    Hello Everyone – oh what a wonderful journey of strength, courage, and encouragement to move past what one fears. I am cheering for you all, one step at a time, step after step, and you will be there! Love, Debbie

  4. Darci Borcherding

    Brian, this post made me cry. Corey will never know how much of an inspiration he has been to me. What an amazing guy. I am so blessed to be his friend and to have been able to share in his journey to the top of Kilamanjaro. Be brave Corey! Can’t wait to hear your stories when you get home!

  5. Doug Leeds

    I am Corey’s cousin. I am very proud of him and the example he is setting for those with cancer or those going through difficulties. He is an inspiration. Go Corey! To the top!

  6. Joe& Patty James

    “One step at a time”…we are with you all in spirit and in our hearts. The James Gang

  7. Nancy Lickiss

    We are in awe of your journey Corey – how exciting! You are an inspiration to everyone. God bless, Nancy and Hugh Lickiss

  8. kathy wennihan

    way to go corey, you rock!!! Kathy

  9. Kim Hughes

    Corey i am so proud of you. I cried tears of joy when i saw this picture and read the story about you. You are an inspriration. Your friends and family love you so much. Well done my good friend.

  10. Karen Parman

    You’re almost there! Listen……can you hear it? There are people all over the world cheering you on! Hugs to you all.


  11. kathy meyer

    Way to go, Corey! You are such an incredible young man who truly knows what life is all about! I am so proud of you and all those who lifting one another up on this journey of life! That’s what we are all meant to do! God bless you!

  12. Darci Borcherding

    Brian, this post made me cry. Corey will never know how much of an inspiration he has been to me. What an amazing guy. I am so blessed to be his friend and to have been able to share in his journey to the top of Kilamanjaro. Be brave Corey! Can’t wait to hear your stories when you get home!

  13. Angie

    Keep up the fight Cory, this should be easy compared to what you have already been through! Were cheering for you all on back in South West Iowa! God bless you all.

  14. Robin Brenner

    You are all heros to all of us out here following your journey. Only if we had your strength and courage. God has embraced each and every one of you and lifted you up so you can make the best of each day whether you make it to the top or only made it part of the way you are victorious and we are so very proud of each one of you. I must send a special hug to Kerri though, we miss you and love you so much!

  15. Pat Kreple

    Prayers for all of you!

  16. Joe Dvorak

    Continued prayers for you all. I am so excited for you. You are all an inspiration. God speed and love you Karri.

  17. Kevin

    Corey –

    I am so proud of you. I have always told people the way you handled the obstacles you have faced with grace and dignity are a real tribute to you, your character and should act as an inspiration to everyone that comes into contact with you.

  18. Dan

    Keep it up Corey! After watching you fight your battles over the years, I know you have unbelievable drive to succeed. I’m really excited for you to have this opportunity.

  19. Nichole Warrick

    You all are such and inspiration!! I get goosebumps each time i read a story or check out the pictures!! Keep pushing your ways to the top!! God Bless all of you!! We miss you Kerri!!!

  20. yasmina madden

    A beautiful entry. Way to go, Corey.

  21. Stuart McKee

    Great job everybody. James and I are thinking about you and we send our very best wishes your way. You guys are not just inspirational, you have created an extended community that provides caring support for a wide range of people touched by cancer. So, when you reach your goal, make an effort to send out a mental image of conquering doubt and fear – we will send it right back to you.

    Above, I said that James was thinking about you, but honestly, I think his 13-year-old thoughts are distracted. After she worked out with the group several weeks ago, James told me “Dad, that Shawn Johnson is cute!” “Is she going to work out with the group again” he asked. Hmm, I don’t know but if it keeps you motivated and invovled “sure, she could stop by anytime.”

    Tell Scotty Avitt that James had a personal best (23.65) in the 50 free Monday night. That is some powerful coaching – it reached him from another continent.

    Love you all, Stu

  22. Christine Kirkman

    Please tell Monsignor Bognanno the Kirkmans send their love and prayers and we are anxious for him to get home and so proud that he had the drive to do this climb.

    Also, please tell Tammy Blaede that Dani Phillips said “Hi!”

  23. Minnie Argo

    We are so proud of you! Keep on going. Can’t wait to hear some of your stories when you get home. Prayers for you everyday.

  24. Don Bytner

    Really proud of what you’re accomplishing. I’m in an arm sling and can hardly get this typed. Good luck.


  25. Laura Virtue

    What a beautiful story and journey. I beat Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in Sept. of 2010. I am so inspired by the motto of this endeavor to show that there is a future beyond cancer. That’s what I am trying to do everyday by getting up and LIVING. Thanks for the inspiration Corey!


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