THE BLOG

Sending a Message of Hope, Need and Urgency for Alzheimer's From the World's Highest Peaks

12/16/2011 08:45 am ET | Updated Feb 14, 2012

Climbing eight mountains on seven continents for Alzheimer's in under one year -- well to say it was a busy year is an understatement: 58 flights, 116,112 miles flown, 120 time zones crossed, 201 nights away from home, 101,058 feet climbed. All that and we reached more than 29 million people with the message of hope, need and urgency around Alzheimer's. While I feel good about our results, it is just the beginning.

I chose to climb these big mountains in less than one year to raise awareness of Alzheimer's because it was a huge goal that few people attempt, much less accomplish. I wanted to stand out in a 24/7 world of continuous news and shout from each continent that Alzheimer's is a disease that must be stopped now. And I did it.

I talked about my mom here on The Huffington Post back on June 19, 2011 -- her journey through losing memories to her identity and eventually, her life. It was this experience that compelled me to start this year-long project.

Again on Sept. 28, 2011, I updated everyone here on my progress during World Alzheimer's Month when I completed all but two of the climbs. With all of them now completed, it is time to reflect.

Each climb was unique. Each mountain had a unique culture from the local Chagga guides on Kilimanjaro, to the Sherpa people of Nepal. Each mountain was unique from the jungles of Carstensz Pyramid, to the endless ice on Antarctica. However, the message from each summit was the same.

I remember standing on the summit of Kilimanjaro looking at the disappearing glaciers. I thought of how my mom's memories disappeared over time as well. On Denali, where hurricane winds stopped my summit, I thought of how researchers work diligently day after day not knowing if they will reach their summit.

Lying in my tent at 26,000 feet at the South Col on Everest, I listened to the wind pound our tent with an unrelenting force. Would my attempt to stand on the top of the world stop just 3,000 feet short? My thoughts went to my cause, the thousands following me that day, sending me their good thoughts. Then, just like a flipping a light switch, the winds stopped and our summit attempt began.

It was about this time of year early in the 2000s that my mom asked me that defining question, "Who are you?" It set in motion almost a decade of events that included her death from Alzheimer's and my own personal journey. I encourage each reader to learn about the difference between normal aging and a disease like Alzheimer's. Have candid talks with your family if you see the signs. Take action today to avoid regrets tomorrow.

Support from my followers was crucial to this project. The emails and donations that came as a result of touching people with our message kept me going. When I got home from Everest, I was told that Friday night parties were interrupted when someone talked about my climb and they all went to a PC to follow my GPS tracker to the summit. They then listened almost live as I sent out our message and I dedicated the summit to my mom and all moms out there with Alzheimer's.

Looking to make a difference? Find your passion and link it to a personal effort. I was gratified by the reaction from my fellow climbers throughout these eight climbs in that many of them had gone through what I had and they fully supported me and the cause. When they returned home, they encouraged their friends and families to make donations and to learn the warning signs -- and that is what this was all about.

With the devastation this disease brings to individuals, finances and families, Alzheimer's must take center stage in healthcare. Every 69 seconds a new case develops in the United States alone. As a society, we are not prepared for the Alzheimer's tsunami so I will continue to raise awareness, educate people and raise money for research through more adventures and speaking to whomever will listen.

My climbs were made possible through the support of the Alzheimer's Immunotherapy Program of Pfizer Inc. and Janssen AI on "The 7 Summits" campaign. All funds I have and will continue to raise go directly to three organizations I selected: the Alzheimer's Association, the Cure Alzheimer's Fund and the National Family Caregivers Association. The donations made to these three supporters will help fund critical research projects, caregiver support and overall education and awareness.

You can download an e-book about my Everest climb and read more about The 7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer's: Memories are Everything at www.Climb4AD.com or www.facebook.com/Climb4AD.