Jessica Kinghorn is the event planner for Climb4Life, a multi-day climbing and hiking event to raise funds and awareness about ovarian cancer, which takes place in the Wasatch Mountains Sept. 15-18. Climb4Life and HERA (Health, Empowerment, Research, Awareness) Women’s Cancer Foundation were founded 10 years ago by Sean Patrick, an outdoor enthusiast, after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Patrick lost her battle two years ago, but her legacy lives on. For more information and to register, visit HERAFoundation.org.
Sean Patrick saw a lot of parallels between climbing and fighting cancer. With climbing, it’s really important to find partners you trust with your life—same with ovarian-cancer diagnosis and the team of doctors you choose. With climbing, you take calculated risks; with cancer, you are, maybe, trying some experimental drug. Also, in general, both can be scary.
How did you become involved?
My mother-in-law passed away from ovarian cancer about three years ago. My husband and I were stunned by how long it took for her diagnosis. Ovarian cancer is known as the silent cancer because the symptoms are so vague. They’re often just what it means to be a woman: bloating, constipation or lower back pain. She couldn’t figure out what was going on, and finally one doctor, by chance, found the cancer. But by then it was in stage IV, which is really difficult to eradicate. Three years later, she passed away. I found HERA when I moved to Utah, and I’ve been involved ever since.
What should women know about ovarian-cancer diagnosis?
You know your body, and if you think something is wrong, go to all the doctors it takes to find out what that is. If [symptoms]persist for two to three weeks, it’s time to find a gynecological oncologist—they do the proper diagnosis. The prospect of a cancer diagnosis is enough to scare a lot of people away from seeing a doctor. Nowadays, cancer is prevalent enough it’s worth considering the option. The earlier it’s found, the better the chance of surviving.
How can people get involved with Climb4Life?
They can register or volunteer. We put volunteers to work. We want them to get to know each other and to really be committed to the cause. We ask for a minimum donation from volunteers and from participants, and participants pay a registration fee. What they get in return is invaluable, we think. You can go climbing or hiking—with options for all levels—there’s a party on Thursday night, there’s a film and speaker on Friday, and there’s another bigger party on Saturday. There’s yoga and massage throughout the weekend. Also you get to meet other people that have been touched by cancer or who are just really motivated to help. It’s not a sad weekend. There’s a lot of really great success stories.