Mountains, Metaphors & Breast Cancer on Kilimanjaro

Retreat alumna Deirdre is climbing a mountain for a cause. A BIG mountain. I asked her to be a guest blogger to tell you about it. As she gears up for this big event, we are gearing up for our 2015 retreat season, which as always kicks off with the Cowgirls vs. Cancer retreat. Through C vs C, we are proud to be sponsoring Deirdre to come train with us in Big Sky before she hits Kilimanjaro, on our late July Yoga & Advanced Hiking retreat (only ONE spot left if you'd like to join us!).

Trekking up a mountain such as Kilimanjaro seems like a novel idea. It provides metaphor. Much to everyone’s surprise (because let’s face it, the family likes it when I’m in the kitchen and the boss like it when I’m at my desk), I’m climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. My climb is in partnership with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, to raise funds for their CLIMB breast cancer research program. Generous friends have helped me raise over $13,000 for the research. I am placing something big, something for others and something for me in the way of the status quo. The laundry can wait. The list of friends and family with cancer has grown much too long over time and now that two more my close friends have breast cancer, I am committing to paying it forward and honoring their efforts. I know that as with cancer for them, this grand mountain in Eastern Africa doesn’t care about my success, nor my reaching the summit, nor in my survival. But nevertheless, the mountain provides tremendous ground on which to assemble my gear, my support team, and my hopes and intentions for a clean trek.

I helped and watched this last year as my dear friend Shauna approached breast cancer with tremendous courage. I know her climb back toward a clean bill of health required extreme diligence, planning, perseverance, support and trust. At times, she made it look easy and that was incredibly inspiring.
(Our mantra at right: "Yes, Darlin' You Can".)

As a gift from our dear friend, Aubrey, last June Shauna and I celebrated the end of her radiation and chemotherapy treatment at LUXE Cowgirl Yoga. The experience offered amazement, challenge and pure glee. I saw my childhood friend - a bit weakened by chemo, medication and surgery - climb on her horse and ride mountain paths, pace herself through rigorous Ashtanga yoga, languish in restorative yoga, and laugh her way into the beautiful Montana evenings with new friends and delicious, nurturing meals. She motivated and encouraged me - as usual! While I have practiced yoga for years, I hadn’t ridden a horse outside of a National Park nose-to-nose trail ride in many years, but trusting the process became my mantra. And by the retreat’s end, Picasso, a sturdy, stubborn Paint, and I had realized a sound relationship. I was on his team, he was on mine. We made it up to the snow line and back down to the trailer in one piece. I do believe it will be the same with this mother of a mountain in Africa. There is training to do, incredible trust needed and indeed a metaphor in play: it is that I can do this if I try - I can make this climb if I commit and train. Each of us can make things happen when we trust in the process and the changes it may bring to our daily life, no matter how challenging. And with prayer flags lovingly addressed (and packed) for all those I know fighting or experiencing cancer, I am so excited for each and every day preparing for my goal of being atop Mount Kilimanjaro.    

Yeehaw & Namaste. 

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