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On the Quest to Conquer Cancer, Mt. Everest


PHILADELPHIA -- Thin air and bone-chilling winds notwithstanding, 35-year-old Karen Brooks looked down from her perch at the world spread out below her. At 29,035 feet, Mt. Everest had a view that could only be seen from the top of the world: a curving horizon of spectacular mountain peaks and endless clouds. There, among the beauty of the Himalayas, she planted a flag bearing a photo of her mother whom she had lost to cancer. A great achievement by any standard, Brooks’ triumph was two-fold: she had not only climbed the world’s highest peak, but she’d raised thousands of dollars for cancer research.

After months of training and preparation, struggling against the extreme cold and facing exhaustion, hypoxia, rashes, chapped lips and hands, and even a bout with bronchitis, Brooks finally reached Everest’s summit in November, 2006.

“I needed the focus, the challenge, and a way to contribute to the fight against cancer. I thought a lot about how best to do this but was drawn to Everest almost immediately,” she said. “Climbing Everest is the supreme symbol of man’s personal struggle to achieve. I thought such an objective was a fitting way to honor my mom.”

Brooks lost her mother, Bonnie, to brain cancer in late 2003. Since then, she has channeled her sadness into a positive opportunity to raise money for cancer research, successfully raising $94,575 to date through pledges and online donations. The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will match her funds dollar-for-dollar to provide a grant to a postdoctoral fellow conducting brain tumor research.

The AACR-National Brain Tumor Foundation Fellowship, in memory of Bonnie Brooks, will be presented during ceremonies at the AACR’s 2007 Annual Meeting on Tuesday, April 17.

Encouraged by her success on Everest, Brooks is turning her thoughts to new challenges. “I am already scheming with the fabulous Logsdon brothers (who biked from Alaska to Argentina) to climb Denali (Alaska) next year, so this is not the last you’ve heard of me, nor is it the last of my fundraising efforts for cancer research.”


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