Climbing a mountain is a metaphor that many cancer survivors use to describe their cancer experience.

Only cancer survivors, themselves, can articulate the overwhelming sense of accomplishment they feel when they succeed in reaching the “summit” of their cancer journey. But what every survivor will tell you is that, during the ascent, his or her perspective on life is forever changed.

Today, September 21, 2014, Above + Beyond Cancer begins another journey. Thirty-one individuals who have been touched by cancer including 17 cancer survivors and 14 caregivers will depart the United States for a journey to the Andes Mountains of Peru. We will begin a 7 day journey of mind, body and spirit that will take us along the Inca trail, up and over 15,000 foot passes and into the lost city of Machu Picchu. The 18 women and 13 men on this journey are ready to learn what the mountains is prepared to teach us.  Most cancer survivors come through their cancer journey with a better sense of who they are, what their priorities should be, and gratitude for having been given a second chance at life. Most come through their experience with a greater appreciation for their fellow human beings, with an enhanced sense of gratitude and generosity. They feel more connected to the world.

The journey that we are about to embark on will be difficult, but we know that it will have the power to transform our lives. This journey is ultimately less about getting to the top, and more about the self- knowledge and wisdom one learns along the way. On our journey, we will certainly experience some hardships along the way. However, we know that the adversity we encounter will lead us to new heights of personal growth. We will meet people who live simple mountain lives. We will learn their culture and their religion. We will feel gratitude for their hospitality and we will learn that we are all connected to each other on this earth. We will also gain an appreciation for the magnificent beauty of our planet as we travel into the Andes Mountains. We will explore our relationship with the environment and develop humility and gratitude for its splendor. We will kindle a desire to preserve our wonderful natural resources.

We will also reinforce the experience of teamwork and the value of having a shared purpose. We will provide each other with support along the way. Some days we will be extra strong and lend help to others along the route. Some days we will be the recipients of our fellow travelers’ assistance. This mutual interdependence is the true essence of the human experience.

This adventure will mirror and reinforce the journey already completed by cancer survivors. Laughter and tears along the way will deepen our understanding of how our own adversity can enhance our lives and the lives of those around us forever. We will return to Iowa with an even greater appreciation for life, our planet, and our fellow human beings. Our gratitude and generosity will help change the world we live in for the better.

Please join us! You can follow our journey right at AboveAndBeyondCancer.org.

Richard L. Deming, MD

Founder, Above + Beyond Cancer Medical Director, Mercy Cancer Center – Des Moines

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