Sunday, September 20, 2015

Bolder Docs Presents The Florida Premiere of Conquering Kilimanjaro


Conquering Kilimanjaro is the first feature-length documentary from the Emmy Award-winning team at Growing Bolder Broadcasting. Conquering Kilimanjaro follows an inspiring group of 16 cancer survivors and cancer community advocates as they attempt to climb the world’s highest freestanding mountain in Tanzania, Africa. Conquering Kilimanjaro celebrates the irrepressible nature of the human spirit, providing hope and inspiration.  

Wendy Chioji, a Central Florida news anchor who beat breast cancer in 2001, was part of the climb just weeks after completing radiation and chemotherapy for thymic carcinoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer. The cancer has now returned and Wendy has been accepted into a clinical trial that offers new hope. “Wendy will beat this like she beat breast cancer,” says Conquering Kilimanjaro filmmaker Marc Middleton. ”But we want to pause for a moment and make certain that she understands how much she means to so many. Wendy has always been about providing hope and inspiration to others and we want to return the favor. The night will included a special tribute and we’re donating a portion of the proceeds from the screening to LIVESTRONG in Wendy’s name.”

This incredibly documentary follows the lives of the climbers, first on the home front when they discover they have cancer and then on the mountain which becomes a symbol of their fight for life. Having just seen Everest in IMAX 3D I have a deep respect for the dangers any mountain climber faces. The fact that for cancer survivors wanted to reach the summit is inspiring. The 16 members of the Kilimanjaro summit team were, for the most part, complete strangers before meeting one another just one day before their adventure began. This climb built a lifelong bond between them all.

The film documented the romance of Bree and Stephen Sandlin. Bree is a marketing executive for Shell Oil, a mother of two and a breast cancer survivor, Bree celebrated her one year “cancerversary” on Mt. Kilimanjaro with her husband who she calls “the most sacrificing person I have ever met.”  On day 6 of the climb it snowed. Bree developed mountain sickness. She was given a steroid shot, but if it didn't work, she would have to turn back. "I am stronger than this mountain, that is all that matters." she said as she continued the climb battling nausea and headaches.

Dr. Robert Masson,  celebrated his birthday on the climb. LIVESTRONG CEO Doug Ulman was also on the climb. The empowering work his organization does was tarnished by Armstrong's fall from grace. Doug had malignant melanoma twice when he was 19 years old, so he understands the need for an empowering community of people who have survived cancer and want to give back hope to those who are battling cancer.

Day 7 was summit day. All 16 climbers left camp in the morning darkness with head lamps on. It would be a ten hour climb to the top. Wendy Chioji developed a nose bleed. Above 19,000 feet, every step was a challenge. The strong bond between the climbers gave them strength. On average, 37% of climbers to attempt to climb Kilimanjaro reach the top.  Every climber fought their way to the top and ultimately all 16 climbers made it to the summit. They often put the needs of other climbers above their own. There are 32 million cancer survivors in the world. It is important not only to survive, but to thrive. Wendy said, "It was the most amazing, life changing experience of my life." Bree said, "You can do anything you set your mind to."

"Hope is a waking dream." - Aristotle


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