Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Roof of Africa

The Roof of Africa

There comes a time in your life when really important decisions must be made. Some may be life altering or some may be at the moment; or some just may be life threatening. It is clear in my mind that the decision I made was all of the above. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro has changed who I am, how I think and what I will do from now on. The day we landed in Africa I felt it. The day I stepped foot on the top of Kili I embraced it. My children are the most important to me and my decision on the “Roof” was made because of them. Just 200 feet from the highest point on the roof I had to turn back. I had reached the summit the day we landed in Africa. I knew I would do it. It ran through my body. I felt the feeling inside already. But 200 feet away from Uhuru and I couldn’t go on. My chest was on fire, I could hardly walk or talk, but I kept pushing myself in hopes I could ascend one more time. I was suffering from high altitude sickness. My fingernails were turning purple, my chest was pounding. Heck, goory details need not be discussed. I broke down in tears knowing I would not experience what my other teammates did. I had jobs to do on Uhuru. Da’ Coat for Judy, the bracelet I wore in memory of Bill, Ken’s tshirt from Focus on a Cure. I was letting all of them down. But a flash came before my eyes and it was that of my boys. I had reached my summit. For them I let go of all the feelings going on in my head of letting other’s down.

I cried so hard at this particular moment. I cried because I had done it. I cried because I missed my dear friend Bill. I cried because I didn’t want to leave my two teammates that held me up and kept me warm and encouraged me the entire climb. Jay said I inspired him. Luc thought I was brave and strong to have gone the distance. These two mean the world to me. We followed each others footsteps. We took breaks together. We encouraged one another. I can’t say enough about them. When I had to desend I asked them to do me some favors. One - place the coat on Uhuru; Two - place Ken’s tshirt on Uhuru; Three - leave Bill’s bracelet in his memory on Uhuru; Four - take pictures. In my pack was was the coat and the tshirt. They took my pack and Godsend, the guide who would lead Luc and Jay to Uhuru, took the bracelet off of my wrist. A moment in time that I will cherish. A moment that has changed me.

Luc filmed me at this particular moment. He looked out for me for five days. He was “Cardio” man. My nickname for him. He kept our heart rate in check. We had a good pace each day we climbed. He let me take off at times when my adrenalin kicked in and would be there when I would slow down. I never met Luc before Africa but the minute we shook hands and said hello for the first time an immediate connection was made. Little did I know then that he would be with me all the way. But destiny has its way and who am I to mess with that.

The day Jay told me I inspired him to come on this climb I was really honored by his words. He also told me I kept him focused as we climbed to the roof. A simple statement I made to him to use his pole then take two steps, concentrate on the pole, said got him to the top. How do you get to this point in your life when other’s look up to you? How do you become someone’s inspiration? How do you get someone to focus so they make it to the top of a mountain? I don’t know these answers. I still can’t seem to wrap my head around any of it. But it has changed me. Not the way I look, or dress, just the way I feel inside. I’m not sure it’s something I can explain or even if I did if it would make sense to other’s. All I know is that the journey to find cures has defined me and has driven me to make this a reality. I follow Enzo and my teammates as we seek to end these dreaded diseases. As we fight to be noticed and heard. As we pathe the way for the future to be clear for others. For my children, for everyone’s children. For they are our future.

I still have a lot of work to do for them and hope for a better future for them. They are every reason to keep moving ahead, to keep climbing up to the next summit, to keep seeking answers they have about why cures are not found yet. And for those in my life who fight this fight in any way shape or form everyday. There are more events to plan, more money to raise for all of you.

The Roof of Africa was beautiful. The feeling was surreal. I did it and nobody will take that from me. In everyone’s honor and everyone’s memory I did it. I kissed my mom and dad as I stood above the clouds. I waved to Bill because I just knew and felt his presence there. I said my good-bye’s to Luc and Jay and wished them luck and said that I would see them at camp. Good Luck, my guide, took my hand and we turned around and he led me back down.
A Trail Called Hope Iv - Mt. Kilimanjaro

Another One Down
World Up,
Strong Feather Eileen

And a special thank you to all of my teammates for making this possible for me as you all played a part in getting me to the top. Each one of you inspired me. I will never forget all the moments we shared in Africa. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Enzo Simone - Captain and visionary
Jennifer Yee - Producer of 10 Mountain 10 Years documentary
Jaymes Brevard
Luc Thoelen
Bill Glover
Nadyne Perlin
Lori Pulley Saviers
Eric Buzzetto
Tom Sabourin
Benny Aerts


Judy Hensley said...

You know what Strong Feather? YOu are one mighty outstanding person and I am so glad that I got to know you better one weekend in May. I asked you to do me a favor and take a piece of my coat with you to Kilimanjaro. I don't remember if I asked you to take a picture of it at the summit or not, but that is all irrelavent now. In my mind, you did me a great honor by saying 'yes, i'll take a piece with me without even really knowing much about me. And then to get to know you when you came to speak to my support group that weekend was just something that made my year!!!

Something inside me kept asking "why would she do this for me? for others? for so many she doesn't really even know? But now I know...and it may not even be something that can be put into words. Strong Feather ...if you had not taken another step up Kilimanjaro in July I would have been proud and honored to say I know you ...because your heart had already done so much before you even got to that point. You urged me to get to know some of the other Regulars. And I was inspired by all the Regulars....not to give up hope... not to worry about what others think...not to give in to a follow my believe in 'together is one'. I've never been a 'go-getter' on my own. I've always wanted to have someone urge me on.

I thank The Regulars for their dedication, I thank Enzo for his vision and his calm and powerful example to all of us. And I am ready to be in the Army of Change; the Revolution that will change my life and the lives of so many who live and face Parkinson's and Alzheimer's every day. Whether it takes 10 years, 20 years, or more...I want to know when I lay my body down with or without Parkinson's someday, that I can know that I did something that could only be done with the help of others just like me who want to see this world void of PD and ALZ.

Strong Feather ...your devotion to your family may have gotten you to the highest point you could go to, but in my heart, your friendship will inspire me to heights I never thought I could achieve before. Thank you and thank you for sharing your heart. I know it will cause others to join in this fight. Climb on my friend, in all you do, and I'll be forever cheering you on and starting on my own new mountains of change in my life.

World up. The revolution of change rocks! ROCX with us!
Judy "in10city" hensley
Parkinson's patient

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