Ever since my dad, Dan MacAskill, got diagnosed with lung cancer- I have been involved with the American Lung Association. 1st, was to show support for him while going through treatment in the Chicago Fight for Air Climb in the Presidential Towers (organized by my dear group of friends!). Then, After the cancer took him from us, I have continued to climb and be involved for several reasons. Some of which are: continuing his memory, coping and making something positive out of something so awful, working with a great organization to help others with lung cancer and families going through what we did, find a cure for Lung Disease, to promote healthy lifestyles and much more!
I did the Seattle Fight for Air Climb of Rainier Tower and then I "upped" my game and climbed the ACTUAL MOUNTAIN - Mt Rainier! There were many thoughts and emotions running through me before making this decision, but I committed and I did it!
Many people have asked why I climb mountains, why take the risk, why put my body through it? The answer is
easy and complicated at the same time.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, the city of Portland, OR, my parents took the family camping many times to the Cascade Mountains. I always loved the beauty of the mountains, the smell of the pine trees, and just being out in nature. The house we lived in, every morning when I walked from my bedroom on the 2nd story of our house to downstairs, I’d pass a window at the top of the 2nd floor. It was like a picture frame. Looking out that window, some 50 miles away, was Mt. Hood, a stratovolcano that stood at 11,240 ft. Always snow covered and a sight I never tired of, nor would I ever forget. I can still see the image in my mind to this day!
In the summer following my 6th grade year of school, my parents moved the family to Springfield, IL. The car journey from Portland to Springfield was an adventure, seeing many wonderful places across the United States as we traveled. But, holy cow, the Midwest is flat! Growing up in Portland, OR, just miles from our house was a hill (butte), actually an extinct cinder cone, that we would climb for fun. How different Springfield, IL was, and I truly missed my picture window view of Mt. Hood.
Fast forward 25+ years. I was living in the Chicago area with my wife Brenda and 4 kids (Stephen, Sarah, Scott, and Sydney). It’s the morning of September 11, 2001. My wife and I just spent a very sleepless night in the reclining chairs of our 1+ year old daughter Sydney’s hospital room. She was admitted on September 10th with difficulty breathing and was now in an oxygen tent. If that wasn’t traumatic enough, you can only imagine the impact of what we saw when we turned on the TV that morning! I felt like I was in a crazy dream and any moment I would wake up, because my daughter being ill and in an oxygen tent, terrorists crashing passenger jets into buildings…just couldn’t be real. Unfortunately, both were very real. Our country healed and my daughter Sydney recovered from her ordeal, though she was diagnosed with Asthma. It was a life changing day.
Fast forward another 8 years and still living in the Chicago area. I’m working in my home office, it’s a normal day, at least on my scale of normality. I’ve been experiencing a dull pain in the middle of my back for a couple days. It has now become annoying. Thinking my back just needs to be popped, I arch my back really hard and suddenly realize it has nothing to do with my back. We all know the feeling of intuition. While I didn’t have any of the classic symptoms, I knew deep in my mind exactly what was wrong. A quick reaction to down a bunch of aspirin, exhaling frequently with a rapid burst of air (kind of like a hard cough) and taking an ambulance ride to the hospital, all within 30-45 minutes, was literally a life saver. Skipping all the drama of the discovery process the emergency room doctors went through in evaluating me, as they initially didn’t believe my condition was what I believed deep in my mind it was. I was “too young” they said, not a “typical case” they said. Regardless, a few hours later and an angioplasty to clear a 100% blocked LAD (main artery of the heart) and I was the proud recipient of a “new and improved” mesh stent. Another life changing day.
I was now labeled with heart disease by my doctors. Don’t get me wrong, there are millions of people truly afflicted with heart disease, and I will never minimize that condition. But I didn’t have heart disease. In my case, the medical label of heart disease was just a medical excuse for what I really had, bad life style disease. My life style was simple, 40+ lbs. overweight, eating whatever I wanted, maybe drinking beer to often, sleeping too little, stressing out too much, and never, ever exercising. Geez, I was a time bomb waiting to go off! Vowing to never return to a hospital for bad life style disease, I went on a mission to cure myself.
Three years later, it’s now 2012. I was traveling weekly to the Seattle area for work. To keep in shape, a friend and I began hiking after work. I’m now back in my childhood element, the Cascade Mountains, enjoying the beauty of the mountains, the smell of the pine trees, and just being out in nature. I’m 40+ lbs. lighter since 2009 and hiking trails that take me higher and higher up mountains. That same summer, my oldest son Stephen was with me in Seattle and we took a day trip to Mt. Rainier (14,410 ft.). We did a short 2-mile hike up to a very accessible area on the mountain called Panorama Point (6,200 ft.). Standing at Panorama Point, enjoying the 360-degree view, I looked up towards the summit. A switch flipped, and I was hooked, “I’m going to climb this mountain”, I proclaimed out loud!
My desire to climb Mt. Rainier and my desire to contribute to others afflicted with Asthma, became one when I stumbled across the American Lung Association’s “Climb for Clean Air” program. Climbing mountains to support a cause I truly believed in and supported? Perfect, I was all in! My first attempt was in 2013. It was an unsuccessful attempt and I learned then that for any number of reasons the summit of the mountain is not always attainable. But I continue the attempt. I really don’t know any other way.
I can’t begin to imagine what it is like to have difficulty breathing due to a condition such as Asthma, COPD, Cystic Fibrosis, etc. I’m pretty much a baby when I get a head cold with blocked sinuses and I have to breathe through my mouth. Watching my daughter Sydney play high school soccer this spring, she would be running hard and suddenly put her hand in air. She would continue to play, raising her hand in the air again when she could. The hand in air was a signal to her coach that she needed either her inhaler or a substitute player for her position. Sometimes play would continue for minutes before one of those conditions were met due to regulations of play stoppage. But she would continue running, continue playing. When she finally got off the field, she would bend over, trying desperately to get air into her lungs! Dang, I would’ve just stopped running!
When climbing mountains, as the elevation increases, I begin to experience on a small scale what it is like to be afflicted with a lung condition. At the summit of Mt. Rainier there is approx. 40% less oxygen than sea level. At the summit of Mt. Everest, 1/3 of the oxygen! But what I experience while climbing is short lived. The more I descend, the easier it is to breathe. For someone with a lung condition, it doesn’t change, it is a constant part of their life
Why I climb?
So, at the age of 54, I’ll continue to climb until I’m unable to do so any longer.
This journey is a very personal one for me in the past four years I lost both my parents to lung cancer. First my father in 2011 after 5 and half month of battling it, he was 44 years’ old and my Mother in late September 2015 after battling it for 18 months, she past one day before her 48th birth day. This is too young to die they have so much more to live for but due to this horrible disease they could not. I’m here helping raises money for lung disease research so that one day others don’t have to sit by their loved one’s side and endure these diseases.
Steve Papp, Sr. and Steve Papp, Jr. have shared many Oregon trails together. Hiking to the summit of Mt. Hood was a special memory for both of them for two reasons: The physical challenge and to honor the memory of wife and mother, Jeannette M. Papp. Jeannette was a long time smoker and passed away from lung cancer at the age of 61. With the support of friends, family and the Lung Association they were able to find a way through this family tragedy and honor Jeannette`s memory.
Mom was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Neither she nor my dad told the family about the stage 4 part of the diagnosis because they wanted all of us to remain positive and to help her fight the cancer as long as she possibly could.
Nearly six months to the day of my mom passing away, my dad and I stood on the top of Mount Hood. However, we could not have done this alone. The greatest memory of this event was more than being at the top of the mountain. It was the support we received from family and friends to reach our fundraising goal and to honor my mom's memory through this climb.
Steve Papp, Jr.
My reasons for participating in the American Lung Association's Climb for Clean Air were...
Although there are no "guarantees" in life, I feel great about reaching my personal goals as well as Reaching the Summit of beautiful Mt. Adams. I am inspired to continue to push past my comfort zone to accomplish more of my life's goals.
The Climb for Clean Air program brought together many things in my life - the need to do something adventurous and challenging, the chance to honor my Mother's memory and to help in the fight against lung disease.
My Mom died of cancer in 2003 and it brought awareness to me the struggle that cancer brings to a family and the need for ongoing research into prevention and possible cures.
I have worked eighteen years for a group of physicians who are pulmonary specialists and see patients for lung diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. My climb gave me cause to remember many of these wonderful patients and their courageous attitudes.
As a native Oregonian I grew up in Salem and have looked at Mt Hood my whole life. To have the opportunity to climb to the summit was an incredible journey! I was drawn to this program because of the personal challenge and the chance to be on a team supporting the American Lung Association.
My family has a long history of lung disease and cancer. Both my maternal grandparents died of lung cancer and I myself had lung problems as the result of a smoking habit that began at the very young age of 14. I repeatedly got chronic bronchitis every year, which made it very difficult to breathe. It wasn't until after both my mother's parents died of lung cancer and my own progressive problems that I decided to quit at age 24, and never went back. In addition to this both my husband Jim and I have lost our moms to cancer and a very close friend of my stepdaughter suffers from asthma.
Lung disease is all around us and I am committed to doing something to make a difference. My motivation to make this climb is the memory of all our loved ones who are suffering or have lost their battle with these debilitating lung diseases, and raising funds and awareness for the American Lung Association. My climb was truly a 'mountain top' experience and one I will never forget."
The best success stories generally have one thing in common: support from someone, an individual or an organization, that had knowledge and resources to facilitate that accomplishment. For recovering smokers, the American Lung Association is often vital in their challenge to become, and remain, 'smoke free'. For me, this event was as an opportunity to help give that others may benefit from its lung health education, support and research programs.
Having never participated in fund raising or considered mountain climbing, I also recognized that committing to the climb was an opportunity to stretch my personal 'envelope', go places I had never even envisioned and do things I had never imagined. I signed up immediately so I wouldn't have a chance to change my mind.
What was it like? How did it feel? Only by making the commitment, setting a goal of raising at least the required donations, training for six months and then reaching the summit, achieving your fund raising and mountain top goals, will you truly know. I can only say I felt a strong sense of satisfaction when the fund raising goal was met. And I can share that, within the moment of the last five steps to the summit, and the five deep breaths of air it took to make them, was one of the most powerful and satisfying experiences of my lifetime.
Breathing difficulties are not a normal part of aging. If you know someone who struggles to breathe, have them see their doctor. It just might save their life.