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Hutch Researcher Summits Kilimanjaro

August 6, 2013
The Hutch's Andrea Towlerton stands on the tallest peak in Africa.

The Hutch’s Andrea Towlerton stands on the tallest peak in Africa.

Three years ago, I met future climber Andrea Towlerton.  Andrea had moved to Seattle from Midland, Michigan to work in a research lab at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She has devoted her life to supporting cancer research and easing the suffering of others. “No matter how hard things have gotten on my end, someone else always has it worse.”

Andrea, having overcome many health obstacles of her own, believes in the impact of private support.  “I have such a great zest for life and want to make sure I live every moment and take opportunities as they come,” Andrea said. “I really feel like no matter how bad things can get, you always want to give back to people in the community.”

Last month, Andrea embarked on an adventure to Tanzania, to climb to the roof of Africa, with the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer.  In her own words, she describes her journey:

First and importantly, thank you so much for your endless support and kindness to me over the past few years. What seemed like a mere intangible goal long ago is still sinking in. I actually did it!

I am thrilled about the whole thing and have the desire to keep climbing with a purpose. I remember meeting Lisa back in 2010 and was so pumped to get going only to get into a car accident literally one week later.  I knew those dreams of Kilimanjaro were only going to help get me back up on my feet and give me something to look forward to. There were tons of challenges along the way but as you told me, it was completely worth it, and you are more than 100% right!

Back in Tanzania after a successful summit.

Celebrating a successful summit.

I was really apprehensive about the climb, wondering if I would be able to summit.  I had never been above 14,000 ft. I was rather scared. I kept remembering WHY I was doing this. It wasn’t about me, it was about something bigger, and for those who couldn’t climb and what they were going through.  I had a lot of support, love and belief that I could do it from everyone here at Fred Hutch.

I couldn’t have asked for a better team and guide.  The group was a small tight-knit clan. To say we had a great time is an understatement!  Our Tanzanian crew was fantastic and provided nothing but high quality assistance to us. Our guide, Eric Murphy, with Alpine Ascents was simply fantastic. I didn’t think twice about putting trust in him and I’m pretty sure you can’t find a more experienced guide to take you to the summit.  Overall it was challenging and rewarding.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.

The best part of the trip was that I got to meet great people from all walks of life who share a love of the mountains.  Kilimanjaro will always be a special time in my life because it was a goal that was obtained by so many people, not just me.

The process of just getting to Kilimanjaro was beautiful. Watching the outpouring of love and support and how many people believed in not only just cancer research, but in Fred Hutch.  They know just like me that this is a place that makes things possible.

I really look forward to climbing more mountains.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Cheryl Lemke permalink
    August 10, 2013 2:25 pm

    Dear Andrea, I am so extremely proud of you and all of your accomplishments I have several friends that are afflicted with cancer and I share your story of how you have climbed the Mt. and work in research and never give up for a cure. You are my hero and I love you to the moon and back and so happy you have fulfilled another dream.
    Love always Aunt Cher

  2. Cheryl Lemke permalink
    August 10, 2013 10:02 pm

    I just read the moving account of some of your journey. Cancer shows no respect for anyone and it takes people like yourself to say you might knock me down but I won’t give up. I have lost so many friends and acquaintences to cancer and never do I forget their fight to survive. You are so beautiful and we are always here for you. Keep it up and always keep us in your thoughts. Love Uncle Ronnie

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