"My dream started out as an ambition to set foot on each of the seven continents and experience the people, culture, and heartbeat of a foreign land.
I began this dream by saving for a trip to Europe at age fifteen. I spent that summer living with a family in Germany, and learned to immerse myself in another world. We learn so much by stepping beyond our comfort level and challenging the mind and spirit. That first trip became a lifelong obsession that led me to Iceland, India, Russia, the Great Barrier Reef, Fiji, the Maldive and Seychelle Islands, Nepal, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Serengeti in Africa via overland truck for eleven weeks, just to name a few.
In 1978, after graduating from an all women's college in Iowa, I began working as a special education and elementary education teacher in Colorado. My desire to impact children’s lives through teaching lasted for twenty years, and still continues today. I have always maintained a strong connection with family and friends and in 1993 I was inspired by my father’s dream to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. This led us to a successful summit of “Kili” on my dad’s 61st birthday. He was my inspiration, my friend, and my hero, and six years later another climb of one of the world’s highest peaks was set in motion. With a successful millennium summit of Mt. Aconcagua, South America’s highest peak, the idea to climb the "Seven Summits" was born.
My dream of climbing intensified after my diagnoses of Multiple Sclerosis in 1999. Waking up with a body that was numb, I feared the worst. I quit my twenty-year teaching career, left a twenty-two year marriage and felt the panic of needing to complete my chosen task while I was still in control of my physical body. From that point, I saved money when and where I could, and in 2000 used what I had saved to participate in a climb of Mera Peak in Nepal, to raise money for a charity. Next, I was off to Russia to climb Europe's highest peak, Mount Elbrus. With my health still strong, I trained on Mexican volcanoes for an attempt of Denali the following spring. With an investment of $10,000 in extreme weather gear, along with a determination that would not stop, I reached the summit of Denali in May of 2006.
Upon returning from Denali, I was told that my persistent back pain was caused by a cyst on a nerve in my spine, which was being pinched between two disks. The cyst developed from a slow leak of spinal fluid, due to a faulty spinal tap by a young medical student, when I was first diagnosed with MS in 1999. After back surgery in 2006, and recovery time followed by training to rebuild my strength, I am ready to move forward again. With ice axe in hand and the desire to complete my dream of setting foot on each continent and climbing the "Seven Summits", I climbed Australia’s Mt. Kosciusko in July of 2008, and Mt. Vinson in Antarctica in November 2008. I am saving the best for last and hope to someday also set foot on the top of the world, Mt. Everest.
I have been blessed in my life with many gifts, including opportunities to travel and climb. These experiences have enriched my life, and for that I am truly grateful. My biggest reward through all of this has been learning about overcoming fear and limitations, and sharing this lesson with others. My desire to impact children’s lives has extended to adults and people with disabilities as well. I now give presentations with the message of encouraging others to empower themselves. It is in giving that we receive our greatest gifts.
So my dream goes on, my hopes and health are strong, and I approach my future with a positive outlook. The one vital lesson that I have learned through all of this is not to let your limitations define you, and never let go of your dreams. Life is too short not to go for the gusto when you are given the opportunity. I hope that all of your dreams come true as well."