Yesterday was an intense day to say the least. I have spent quite a bit of time in Nepal over the years, living, working, studying, and teaching as well as climbing. And, in those times, I have come face to face with the myriad of misfortunes that befall so many people in this Himalayan kingdom: leprosy, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, abuse, and the cumulative effects of extreme poverty.
But, yesterday was the first time I visited cancer wards in Nepal, and it was an eye opener.
On some level, the other ailments mentioned above cause certain angst and sympathy, making even the hardest of hearts soften, even the tightest of wallets loosen a bit. But, they are also distant for most of us. As fortunate members of the relatively affluent West, diseases like leprosy are distant, are not something we encounter often, if at all.
But, cancer is different. There are few if any worldwide who have not felt the effects of cancer in their lives: friend, family, cousin, uncle, brother, sister, mother. Cancer touches us all, regardless of our skin color, our religion, or our geographic location. It is, in many ways, a tragic equalizer, a horrific disease which ties us all together in some way.
But, of course, it only equalizes in some ways. Even the might of cancer does not level the economic playing field, nor subsequently the treatment options.
And this was more than evident as we visited the Kanthi Childrens and Bhaktapur Cancer Hospitals yesterday in the Valley. Throughout the pediatric oncology ward at Kanthi, doctors struggled to save young lives with rudimentary equipment and paltry funds in harrowing conditions. Likewise, at Bhaktapur, Dr. Bharal works tirelessly to combat the disease ravaging his many patients, young and old.
As I watched James Chippendale - himself a cancer survivor - visit the patients, talk to the doctors, and laugh with the children, I could see his passion and dedication grow along with his understanding of the magnitude of the problem facing Nepal.
James, Shannon, and Everest Rocks are more committed than ever to help change the face of cancer treatment here in Nepal.
It is an exciting and trying time, but to know that lives will be changed through our activities here...well, that makes all the difference.
- Jake Norton is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational speaker from Colorado.