It’s our last day in Nepal. Our flight departs today at 4:00 p.m. I awake early this morning to do some writing. At 9:00 a.m. we’re meeting with the Chief Administrative Officer of the Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital and the Chairman of the Nepal Cancer Relief Society. We had first met them when we arrived in Kathmandu two weeks ago and toured the Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital. They were so impressed by the story of the 19 cancer survivors climbing mountains in the Himalaya that they wanted to hold a press conference today to let the Nepali people know about our journey and to provide hope to those in Nepal who are faced with a cancer diagnosis. Most men and women in Nepal who are diagnosed with cancer die of their disease. Being cured of cancer and climbing mountains after cancer is not something that they have witnessed.
I take Justin, a 28 year-old brain cancer survivor, and Leah, a 42 year-old breast cancer survivor and a medical oncologist, with me. The press conference is held in the dining room of a restaurant. We share breakfast and we share with our hosts tales of our recent adventures in their beautiful country. After breakfast we move to the end of the room where a banner has been hung proclaiming, “Nepal Cancer Relief Society.” This is the 30th anniversary of it’s founding.
K. Sunil Poudyal, the Chief Administrative Officer of the Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital speaks first. With TV cameras taping and media photographers snapping photos, he welcomes us again to Nepal and then he formally present me with a plaque to commemorate our visits. He then invites me to speak.
I thank Mr. Poudyal for his hospitality. I tell the press about the Above + Beyond Cancer organization and about the 19 cancer survivors who have just completed this amazing journey in Nepal that culminated in the successful climb of a 20,000-foot mountain. I tell them that I am a volunteer for the American Cancer Society and inform them that the ACS will be celebrating its 100th year anniversary next year. “I think that it would be wonderful for us to collaborate on projects to help prevent cancer in each of our countries.”
“Nearly 600,000 Americans will die of cancer this year,” I say. One third of all cancers in the U.S. are caused by cigarette smoking. Most people know the cancer risks of cigarette smoking. However, fewer people know that about a third of all cancer deaths are caused by inactivity and obesity. I say that we can learn a lot from their culture. They seem to have a healthy diet comprised of primarily vegetable sources of nutrition and they have, by necessity, an active lifestyle.
“We need to work together to prevent cancer that can be prevented, cure cancers that can be cured and invest more in research that will allow us to make even greater strides in creating a world with less cancer and more birthdays.”
I introduce Justin and Leah to the media. Each of them give passionate and articulate statements about the lessons they have learned from having gone through the cancer journey and the commitment they have made to advocating for better healthcare and more funding for research.
Hira Bhai Shrestha, the Chairman of the Nepal Cancer Relief Society, speaks last. He thanks us for the inspiration and motivation we have provided to the people of Nepal. He would like for us to meet with school children around the country to help educate and motivate the next generation of Nepali.
Finally, I give Mr. Poudyal a check for $1,000 for the Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital, a hospital that provides care for the underserved population of Nepal. “This is a gift from us to you as an expression of our gratitude for your hospitality, as a token of our friendship, and as the beginning of a relationship whereby we can work together to help create a better world.”