'You can beat this:' Cancer survivor climbs Denali to inspire others

Veteran climbers, including a breast cancer survivor and a Superior Court judge, kick off Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s 16th annual Climb to Fight Breast Cancer on North America's highest peak
2010 Denali Team
The 2010 Denali team pictured on their approach to the summit. Photo by Sarah Olson

The 16th annual Climb to Fight Breast Cancer is off to a bold start, with three veteran climb participants tackling North America's highest peak, Denali in Alaska. "CURE Challenge climbers" Nikki and Chris Milonas — along with Marybeth Dingledy, a Snohomish County Superior Court Judge — are part of Alpine Ascent's Team No. 7 on the Alaskan peak. Follow their progress via the guide service's cybercast posts.

High-powered fundraising, training

Nikki Milonas — a repeat climber who also happens to be a breast cancer survivor — is climbing with her husband Chris. Together, they have spent nearly three years raising tens of thousands for breast cancer research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The Milonases set out to summit the 20,320-foot mountain last year, as well, but their team had to leave early. Read their web page and story.

Undeterred, Milonas resumed fundraising this year, organizing a wine tasting event in May and waking in wee hours twice a week for weight lifting and stair climbing; on weekends, training with 50-pound packs at high elevations.

"Chris and I are very excited to be going back to Denali and fundraise for Fred Hutch," Milonas said. "It is wonderful to be able to pay back the organization that has given so much to support breast cancer research as well as cancer in general.

"I climb to be inspirational to all those women out there who have had and will get breast cancer, who go through the mental process of diagnosis, then radiation/chemotherapy," she said. "At first you think your life is over, but I am here to say you can beat this and move on doing whatever it was you enjoyed before cancer." 

Dingledy, also a breast cancer survivor, has participated in the Climb several times since 2006, raising more than $80,000 for Fred Hutch.

Since it was established, the Climb has raised more than $6.6 million for Fred Hutch research. Depending on which peak they are climbing, participants commit to a raising a minimum of $2,000 to $12,500. This year more than 70 climbers will climb and fundraise for breast cancer research at Fred Hutch. Professional guide services lead all Climb to Fight Breast Cancer expeditions.

Climbs on 12 additional peaks continue through June, July, August, and October. For a full schedule of peaks and information about climb dates, routes, donation opportunities, and more, visit Climb to Fight Cancer.

Send questions to cfbc@fhcrc.org.

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