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Going Above + Beyond Cancer

By Staff | Sep 28, 2016

It’s 8,400 miles between Iowa & Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Hiking the mountain will take Wendy and Greg Sander 19, 341 feet above sea level.

Above + Beyond Cancer is a public charity with a mission to elevate the lives of those touched by cancer, to create a healthier world. The Sanders are part of a group of 34 survivors and caregivers and a documentary film crew traveling to Kenya and Tanzania for two weeks in January, 2017.

Wendy Sander is a 15-year survivor of breast cancer, and her husband, Greg is accompanying Wendy as a cancer caregiver. During the January journey, survivors and caregivers visit the hospital then travel to Tanzania and climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. As part of the experience, the team also individually fundraises to support the hostel project.

Supporters can mail checks to Wendy Sander, 203 W 4th St N, Estherville, IA 51334; if you wish your check to be tax-deductible, make it out to Above + Beyond Cancer.

Greg Sander saw a picture of a trip to Macchu Picchu, and was fascinated.

“We just wanted to do something like this, Above and Beyond,” Wendy said. “I think people believe that they can’t do things, and it’s actually within the realm of possibility.”

The Sanders were previously accepted to go to Tibet on a similar mission, but the trip was cancelled due to the earthquake in Nepal. Over the summer, another chance emerged.

“I had to go through the interview process again; we did a phone interview, and I had to write an essay,” Wendy said.

The essay was simple for Wendy, because of an article Mary Ann Menendez wrote about her five years after Wendy’s diagnosis.

Founded in 2011 by Des Moines, Iowa Oncologist Dr. Richard Deming, Above + Beyond Cancer journeys have led participants to places like Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal and the top of Mount Kilimajaro, but it’s not about getting to the tops of mountains. Through our transformational journeys, our participants inspire the public by devoting themselves to a life of advocacy and leading an example for healthy living and cancer prevention in their communities.

“Three months to go,” Wendy said. “We are very active at the Regional Wellness Center. We go out there a lot.”

Greg Sander said, “We had to bump [our workout] up a little bit.”

“We’re done with week 2, and we’re into week 3,” Wendy said. The Sanders had a fitness assessment done by Bob Grems several weeks ago, which was sent to the organizers of Above + Beyond Cancer. The Sanders do at least 30 minutes of cardio daily, along with weight training, balance, and stretching, and also hiking with their boots and day-packs, and yoga. “I am going to start doing aqua yoga at the Regional Wellness Center,” Wendy said.

Above + Beyond Cancer has partnered with the American Cancer Society on an historic effort to build the first ever American Cancer Society Hope Lodge-inspired facility, a hostel, outside of the U.S. at the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya.

“The main thing is the mission of building the first international Hope Lodge,” Greg said. “Many people in these countries have to travel hundreds of miles for treatment, and this will be a place for them to stay while they’re undergoing treatment.”

Greg added, “We’re ready to do whatever they tell us, from swinging a hammer to putting up drywall.”

The joint mission to bring free lodging to cancer patients in Kenya begins with a two-week long trip led by Above + Beyond Cancer, which leaves Iowa January 2, 2017.

Since the first Hope Lodge of the 30 locations across the U.S. opened in 1970, the American Cancer Society has provided a place of hope and healing for more than a million patients and caregivers.

Dr. Deming said, “Our upcoming journey to Kenya and climbing up Mount Kilimanjaro will be a life-changing, mind, body and spirit experience for every participant. The combination of mission work plus climbing Kilimanjaro will give all the participants joining us the opportunity to live life with purpose and passion, which is something we owe ourselves and everyone whose life has been cut short by cancer.”

Wendy said, “Dr. Deming tells us if you can take one more step, you can climb the mountain. I think that is so important for anyone facing a challenge or going through life.”

Wendy added, “Some of the people who went on the last trip still weren’t in remission, though they were assessed as fit enough to go. I just think there is this opportunity to get out and do something above and beyond recovering from cancer.”

Greg said, “Studies have shown that regular exercise can help prevent cancer, and keep it from coming back.”

Wendy said, “If people see us going down Central Ave. with our full day packs and boots, don’t worry about us. We’re just getting ready.”