The team made it to Base Camp – they took out the flag that they’ve been carrying and they read the names of hundreds of people afflicted with Duchenne. 

In hope for… 

In memory of…

I have done that twice, on the top of Mount Whitney in California and on the top of Breccia Peak in Wyoming. Both times I had a really hard time making it through the list because I thought about what each name meant. What it meant to each person – their pain, their dreams, their ambitions, what it meant to each family and what it meant to every person who loved them.

Tonya sent me a picture of Abe and her at Base Camp. I found myself looking at another photo that we have on our bedroom wall. It’s a picture of Abe and Tonya, taken before Gus was diagnosed. But also taken before Tonya was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

When Gus was 2 and Abe was 4, Tonya found a small lump. She went to one doctor who said not to worry and then she went to another who wanted it tested. The first doctor was wrong. She had stage 3 cancer. The surgeon who realized that it was stage 3 came to me after surgery in tears. “We didn’t expect this,” she said. Tonya began 18 months of treatment. It was 4 surgeries, four months of intensive chemo, 2 months of radiation and one year of Herceptin infusions. Often, during those 18 months, as Tonya recovered from chemo or one of her surgeries, I would sit alone and look at that photo of Tonya and Abe. I’d wonder if that would be his memory of her. We didn’t know if she would survive.

But we did have Herceptin. Just three years earlier, it had been approved to treat Her-2 positive cancer. Tonya’s oncologist called it a “miracle drug.” “Herceptin has turned a highly fatal form of cancer into a very manageable one,” he told us.

So, as I look at that picture of Tonya and Abe at Base Camp, I think about how miraculous it is that Tonya, that same woman who battled breast cancer 12 years ago, has now taken 4 teams to Everest Base camp. I think about the fact that Tonya and Abe are making yet another memory together on this trek, along with Tonya’s dear friend Jill Pearson and Abe’s best friend, Fletcher Maggs. 

But mostly, I think about the fact that miracles are possible. The money that Tonya has raised over the years (and will continue raising) may help develop a drug for all those kids on the flag. Doctor’s will call it a miracle drug because it will turn Duchenne, a terminal illness, into a manageable disease. When we say, “In hope for,” that’s what we mean. We hope for a miracle – but it isn’t a naïve hope. We know that miracles happen, we’ve seen it.