Survived Stage IV Cancer, Now Climbed Kilimanjaro | reporting

Ten years ago, Tobi Sample was dying.

The stage VI cancer was not responding to treatments. His family decided to take one last vacation. She and her husband talked about palliative care. Tobi wrote letters for his daughters to read during important moments in their lives that they would live without their mother.

But Tobi Sample survived – and this month climbed one of the highest mountains in the world.

“I’m one of those patients who doesn’t always play by the rules, I guess,” she said Thursday.

Sample’s trek, living with her family in Indiana, USA, to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro was both a fundraiser for a charity working in Rwanda and an opportunity to show herself how far she has come. arrived since his diagnosis. Sample, 49, is among countless people who have made the painful journey that follows such a serious illness, which forces them to face the uncertainty of living each day as a gift without knowing what tomorrow will bring.

His direct shock with mortality came in 2013, when he began living in excruciating pain. A tumor was pressing on her spinal cord. Another began to eat away at her collarbone. The only medicine available for her specific condition caused one of her tumors to quadruple in size.

At the foot of Kilimanjaro
REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly (archive)

That summer, she was dependent on supplemental oxygen and could barely get out of bed. Her family thought she had months to live.

It was just this strange twilight of doctor appointments and despair and panic and sadness.said her husband, Stephen Sample.

At the time, Stephen discovered a clinical trial that looked promising. He and his wife’s sister shared a list of participating hospitals and started calling. After a hospital in North Carolina accepted Tobi Sample to participate in their program, she began traveling from Southern Indiana to the site for treatments every three weeks for a year.

The new medicine worked. In 2015, an examination returned with miraculous news: Sample showed no signs of active disease.

Pain-free, she began to return to her pre-cancer life. She went back to running the half marathon, burned the letters she had written to her daughters. Then … she decided to climb Kilimanjaro for the benefit of Africa New Life, a Christian charity, through which she sponsored the education of a Rwandan girl.

Tobi’s doctor didn’t like the idea. He warned her that the erosion of the tumor on her arm meant she could break a bone just brushing her hair, let alone trying to reach a peak over 5895 meters high.


Her husband was less concerned. He said he knew she was tough, and he didn’t care about her bones or her body. Instead, he said, he warned the woman not to let her stubbornness lead to other problems, such as debilitating altitude sickness and the inherent lack of oxygen.

I’ve been married to her for 25 years, and one thing I’ve learned is that she always does what she says she’s going to do.says Stephen Sample. If anything goes wrong, she knows how to handle it.

Tobi Sample was initially supposed to climb the mountain in 2020, but the trip was canceled because of the covid-19 pandemic. With plenty of time to train, Sample devoted himself to running, with interval training to prepare. He hadn’t walked that far before, but he felt confident that he could make the trip.

On February 1, Sample and 17 others set out on the Kilimanjaro trek in northeastern Tanzania. Most of the group walked for six and a half days: eight kilometers one day, ten the next, seven the next. They carried backpacks stuffed with all-weather clothing, while porters from a guide service carried the larger bags from one camp to the next.

Each day was like being on a different mountain, says Sample. Parts of the trip went through rainforest, while other parts required rock climbing. Throughout it all, the guides encouraged the hikers, reminding them to move polepole swahili to slowly.

Reuters (archive)

On the day scheduled to reach the summit, the group woke up from a brief sleep at half past midnight. They traveled by night and reached the top by day.

Sample had a terrible altitude headache and was desperate for sleep. But she felt enormous gratitude for what she had achieved, despite the doctors warning her that the cancer had torn her body apart.

I felt so grateful to be able to carry a 30-pound backpack, which I shouldn’t have been able to do.she said. There is no explanation for this.

After the walk, Sample flew the group to Rwanda for a celebration with the children they support. She had raised $13,945 (about 13,000 euros) for the Africa New Life food program and he was happy to see the money go to a community he had fallen in love with.

Betty Davis, a spokeswoman for the charity, said knowing what Sample had endured in her life helped bolster other hikers’ motivation when they struggled to keep going.

Those mountain days are really hardsaid Betty Davis. And knowing what she went through and what she accomplished and how God helped her through it is really extraordinary.

Tobi Sample, says her husband, is living a life that shouldn’t exist. She says that Tobi has spent a lot of time since her return trying to prove that she can not only live a normal life, but also grow as a person.

With his Kilimanjaro adventure behind him, Sample has the opportunity to decide his next big step now. One of her ideas is rooted in her experience over the last decade: inspired by her odyssey with melanoma, Sample dedicated herself to the work of an oncology nurse for a few years, helping other people with cancer to face the disease.

Her next adventure, she said, should be precisely to return to that mission.

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