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Chuck Wakefield: A “Mountaintop Moment” in Cancer Survival

Chuck Wakefield

"Fighting cancer is a lot like climbing a mountain. It's difficult to get there, but life-changing when you do. And afterward, you keep living as a new person."

Chuck Wakefield
Multiple Myeloma

“In a lot of ways, climbing a mountain is like fighting cancer,” Chuck Wakefield said. He knows both fights well. In January 2016, as a 12-year multiple myeloma survivor, Chuck summited Mount Kilimanjaro alongside his oncologist, Dr. Brian Berryman.

For Chuck, the climb mirrored his fight against multiple myeloma. Both called for physical and mental toughness, and both left him changed. Just as Chuck’s 12 years of survival offer encouragement to current cancer patients, he hopes that his climb up Mount Kilimanjaro can encourage cancer survivors to pursue an active life.

Chuck has always been athletic, though a blood and marrow transplant in 2005 put that on pause. “All I could think of was that the Hotter Than Hell 100 cycling race was going on, and my cycling friends were there, and I was in the hospital, recovering,” he said.

Since the transplant, Chuck and Dr. Berryman have remained close, bonding over their love of fitness. When they had the opportunity to climb 20,000-foot Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise funds for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), it was a no-brainer.

Chuck, Dr. Berryman, and the 13 other climbers each raised more than $20,000, for a total of more than $238,000 for the Multiple Myeloma Research Society. “It’s a drop in the bucket of what’s needed for this research, but it’s a seriously impressive drop,” Dr. Berryman said. While every clinical trial is different, he estimates that their fundraising could help 20 multiple myeloma patients join a trial.

The group battled cold, the effects of altitude, and the occasional temptation to turn around, but they made it to the top. “We knew we were doing this for the patients who have passed away, and the patients who are yet to come,” said Chuck.

Despite the intense physical challenge, they both agree they would do it again in a heartbeat. Rather than letting cancer define his life, Chuck allowed it to open doors to new relationships and exciting opportunities.

The information included in this testimonial is based on one patient’s unique experience and is not intended to represent all patient outcomes or expectations.