Mt. Kilimanjaro Trek

What is the connection between Mt. Kilimanjaro and Cancer?

By Ted Nichols

On Jan 4, 2019 I will be flying to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro which is the highest mountain in Africa (19,341 feet). Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is considered an extreme altitude climb so high-altitude acclimatization is a critical part of the overall 9-day trek. The night time temperatures can range between 20 and -20 degrees Fahrenheit and there is snow in January even though Kilimanjaro is just below the equator. Climbing Kilimanjaro has been a “bucket list” activity I have had for a few years. Up until recently it was hard to justify making the trip, so the following story explains why I will be making the trek.

On March 6, 2015, our oldest daughter Sarah, was diagnosed with Stage 3 Triple Negative Breast Cancer. At the time she was 36 years old and 8 months pregnant with her second child. Already having a 14-month old son, Sarah and husband Chris were now faced with one of life’s unexpected and not so good challenges. On that day, they started on a journey that is equivalent to climbing a mountain called Mt Cancer. Four weeks after being diagnosed she received her first chemo treatment. Two weeks later they induced labor and a healthy Anna Kelly was born and later that week she had her third chemo treatment which continued until July. In August she had a lumpectomy and lymph node dissection followed by 6 weeks of radiation. The challenge with climbing a mountain called Mt Cancer is that from the beginning it is hard to know how high and how long the trek will be. Those first few weeks were tough.

Unless you live in a cave, you probably know someone or maybe you have made the journey with someone you love or care for or maybe YOU are that person that was diagnosed with cancer that made that trek up Mt Cancer. The trek up Mt Cancer is not a 1- or 2-day activity, rather it takes months and sometimes years. It involves a number of “stops along the way” with names like:

Camp Chemo
Losing Your Fingernails Turn off Radiation Beach
Lymph Node Overlook
Will I Live Base Camp
Nausea Overlook
Having that Sick Look Lunch Stop
Lumpectomy Vs Mastectomy Trail
Losing Your Hair Rest Stop
Will It Come Back  Rest Area


A “trek” is defined as “a long arduous journey, especially one made on foot.” Yup, climbing Mt. Cancer is a long arduous journey. What is unique about the Mt Cancer trek is that it becomes an unexpected family or group event. Everyone ends up going: spouses, children, sisters, brothers, friends, parents, partners, doctors, nurses, grandparents, neighbors and the list goes on. Whether you like trekking up mountains or not, you’re going! You initially hope the trek will be a short one, but you learn some treks are short while others become a lifetime challenge. I am sure you know folks who are “trekking every in and day out.” So, if you have made the trek up Mt Cancer, I truly hope you got to the top. I also hope the view was beautiful for you and your “fellow climbers” but I know that is not always how it ends up.

For Sarah and Chris, their view has gotten better. In early August of this year, after a series of tests and scans, Sarah hit the three-year mark, which is a key milestone for her type of cancer and she is clean! In fact, 2018 is looking like a good year because they welcomed their third child named Caleb in April.

Midway through Sarah’s cancer treatments, she and our youngest daughter Leah, an oncology nurse, started evaluating the food they ate and the products they put on their bodies. Sarah and Leah began looking for women’s beauty products that focused on something bigger than beauty. They started a company called SaltyGirl Beauty in 2016 that is focused on women’s organic beauty products (

An important component in creating SaltyGirl Beauty was establishing Foundation4Love ( Foundation4Love’s purpose is to provide “an escape or a helping hand” for people experiencing a cancer diagnosis and treatment who live in the Northeast. Foundation4Love is funded by profits from SaltyGirl Beauty, individual donations, as well as the annual “Foundation4Love Gala” that takes place each June. If you’re trekking up Mt Cancer, you know it becomes an all- consuming activity. With everything else one has to deal with as well as the expenses that are impacting you, the first thing you give up is time for yourself and your relationship with the ones closest to you. Over the past three years, Foundation4Love has provided approximately 30 escapes, including Weekends away, Dinner out/Private Chef, Entertainment (play, sporting event, theater), Spa Day.

The burden of a cancer diagnosis and treatment is an emotional, physical and financial nightmare. If you are currently climbing Mt. Cancer, there’s so much to have to deal with that it becomes an “all- consuming night and day trek,” so** is here to provide a few restful and appreciative vistas along the way.

As part of my trek up Mt Kilimanjaro, I am looking to raise money for Foundation4Love through donations with the objective of helping individuals and their families who are making the Mt. Cancer trek. 100% of all donations will go directly to Foundation4Love and can be made directly to here....... See you at the Top!

Foundation4Love is a registered 501c3 non-profit
All costs associated with climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in January 2019 will be covered privately.