Cancer survivor climbs Mount Kilimanjaro to spread message of hope, survival

Posted at 10:05 PM, Jun 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-27 08:39:13-04

A cancer survivor from Utah trekked 37 miles up and down steep terrain to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Molly Froerer said she ascended 19,321 feet above sea level to spread a message of hope and survival.

“When I just went in for a routine screening and said, ‘I’ve been noticing this lump,’ and they said, ‘We should probably get that checked out,'" she said.

Froerer said that visit was the start of it all.

“So that was on Monday of spring break, and then on Tuesday I had a mammogram and biopsy, and on Wednesday I got the diagnoses that it was cancer,” she said.

Back in 2013, the Utah mother of three found out she had advanced breast cancer, and she ended up needing a double mastectomy before going through six months of chemotherapy and radiation.

“It was really hard emotionally because, you know, you're worried that you're going to die,” she said.

Now Froerer has been cancer free for 2.5 years, and she is sharing her story of survival with others by raising awareness and money with the non-profit organization Radiating Hope.

“Our ultimate goal is to advance cancer care in developing countries,” said Doctor Brandon Fisher, a radiation oncologist at Ogden Regional Medical Center.

Each year, Radiating Hope goes around the world to summit the tallest mountains, and Froerer just got back from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with the group.

“I was sort of the cancer climbing mascot of the climb,” she said.

Fisher said Froerer was more like an example of what is possible when it comes to cancer.

“So to get cancer in Tanzania, it's basically a death sentence,” he said. “And if you talk to anyone in Tanzania they say, 'Oh, if you get cancer you die.' And so we wanted to bring Molly on the trip to show that, 'Hey, you can get treated for cancer, and you can survive cancer.'"

Fisher said cancer is the leading cause of death in Africa, killing more people than HIV, aids, malaria and tuberculosis combined. When he first started working in Tanzania, he said there was only one radiation machine for all 43 million people.

"We have 11 million cancer survivors here in America, and to have none in Tanzania, it just seems unfair, he said.

So far, Radiating Hope has raised enough money over the last seven years to donate two more radiation machines to Tanzania.

Froerer said, if she's learned anything, it’s that the hard work will continue to pay off.

“We can do hard things, and that's sort of been my theme as I’ve gone through my cancer treatment,” she said. “Just that I've always thought that I could do hard things, and cancer made me know that I can do hard things.”

She had this message for others battling cancer: “It's hard and it's tough, but you can do it, because you can do hard things too."