A new journey for these cancer survivors begins in the middle of the Himalayas. Doctor Richard Deming, a cancer doctor from Des Moines, is one of the founders of the organization Above and Beyond Cancer. Deming says, "They sign up for this journey not because they always wanted to climb a mountain or in spite of their cancer, they sign up for this journey because of their cancer. Because of the courage and confidence they gained in their cancer journey."
This trek started in the midst of lush green lands surrounded by heart–stopping beauty and Tibetan culture. For all the challenges along the route the group experienced just as many rewards, perhaps none quite as awe–inspiring as that first glimpse of Mount Everest. Deming says, "What's really exciting is being with people who are going to see it for the first time, as you round the corner and there's the whole Everest massif. The most common reaction is people just burst into tears."
Despite the overwhelming beauty all around them, struggle began to set in for many of these climbers. Many began to simply focus on taking a single step at a time in rocky terrain and high altitude. But it was often made little easier because of a warm hug, or a good luck kiss. And when there wasn't a hug or a kiss to life spirits there were prayers for all types of believers.
These climbers came with a mission, and it wasn't just to climb a mountain. They all carried prayer flags with them, decorated in memory of a loved one who died or in honor of someone who's going through the cancer journey. Dr. Deming explains, "They fly in auspicious places and the idea is the breeze catches the prayer and takes it around the world."
The group had a 1000 flags to string up. Once the flags were flying the group held a Relay for Life, walking together to celebrate their survivorship, honor caregivers, and remember those who lost their fight with cancer. Dr. Deming says, "The last lap we do is about fighting back. Where we vow that those that have died will not have died in vain and they will inspire and motivate and demand of us that we do what we can when we get back to help reduce the burden of cancer."