At the age of 48, after watching a Discovery Channel documentary called Everest: Beyond the Limit, Cindy Abbot decided to start training for mountain climbing. Soon after, she was diagnosed with Wegener’s Granulomatosis. After suffering from years of unusual and unexplainable physical problems, including permanent loss of vision in one of her eyes, the diagnostic came as a relief. Cindy had finally put a name to her disease and could start the treatment program.
Even while fighting with the side-effects of the treatment and the disease complications, Cindy remained focused on training and preparing to climb the highest mountain in the world. “Most people who attempt to climb Mt. Everest train for many, many years, but I do not have that much time! If I am going to attempt this climb I must do it this coming season,” said Cindy on her blog, Reaching beyond the clouds.
Once her medical condition was stabilized by the treatment program, together with her guide, Scott Woolums, Cindy attempted to climb Mt. Aconcagua (6,962 m, 22,841 ft), breaking her leg on her way down. It took her seven months, and two surgical procedures to resume her training. Only seven weeks after her last procedure, she summited Mt. Rainier in Washington State (4,392.5 m, 14,411 ft); last year, she summited Mt. Elbrus in Russia (5,642 m, 18,510 ft) and attempted Peak Lenin in Kyrgyzstan (7,134 m, 23,406 ft).
Last Wednesday, May 26, at the age of 51, Cindy finally reached summit of Mt. Everest (8,848 m, 29,029 ft). “Climbing Mt. Everest was the most difficult thing I have ever done! I will tell you: at no point did I think to stop and turn around! However, by the time I reached the summit I was in a state of amazement at the physical, mental, and emotional feat I had just accomplished: To stand (or sit as in the picture) and look down at the rest of the World. I reached beyond the clouds and I touched it! Now, all I want is to get home to my family,” Cindy wrote on her blog one day after she reached summit.
Cindy decided to use this climb, not only to fulfil her dream, but also to raise rare disease awareness and to raise money for the Vasculitis Foundation.
What is Wegener’s Granulomatosis?
Wegener’s Granulomatosis is a type of vasculitis , or inflammation of the blood vessels. For reasons not clear, the blood vessels in those areas may become inflamed, forming granulomas (small nodules), that can destroy normal tissue. This limits the flow of blood to important organs that become damaged. It typically affects the respiratory system, including sinuses, nose and lungs, but it may also involve kidneys, eyes, ears, throat and skin.
Early diagnosis and treatment of Wegener’s granulomatosis may lead to a full recovery. However, without treatment, it can be fatal. Wegener’s Granulomatosis is not contagious and there is no evidence it is hereditary. It most often occurs in the fourth and fifth decade of life. Patients are divided equally between males and females. It appears that Caucasians are far more commonly affected than other racial groups.
Visit Cindy Abbot’s blog, Reaching beyond the clouds, here.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, the Vasculitis Foundation, CheckOrphan.
Photo: Cindy Abbout showing Rare Disease Day logo at the top of Mt Everest ( © Scott Woolums)
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