Kilimanjaro peak looms for Brownoff on MS quest
Local writer working toward bucket list item, cure for disease
Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 06:00 am
One local woman is about to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for two very good reasons. Leanne Brownoff, the St. Albert-raised columnist with the Edmonton Journal, has always had the heights of Africa’s highest mountain on her bucket list.
Brownoff, along with her daughter, Jessica, just left on Monday for the trip of a lifetime, one that has a secondary purpose of being a lofty fundraiser for the MS Society as well.
“I’m sure that most people know somebody who has this condition, or has heard of somebody,” she suggested. “That’s why we want to do it. We want to do it for the people who can’t do it, who don’t have the choice. We want to climb for them.”
According to the organization’s website at www.mssociety.ca, multiple sclerosis is a disease of the myelin sheath of the nervous system that can result in a number of symptoms including extreme fatigue, lack of co-ordination, weakness, tingling or impaired sensations, vision problems, bladder problems, cognitive impairment and mood changes.
Its cause is still a mystery and there is still no cure either. It is usually diagnosed in people aged 15 to 40 but is four times more likely to occur in women than men. There are an estimated 100,000 people in the country who have MS.
It is a disease that has a particularly profound impact on some people in Brownoff’s life, including her brother-in-law, two of her cousins and also the husband of a good friend.
“It’s not supposed to be a disease that follows necessarily a genetic train. It’s in my family. These are people who were living extremely healthy, busy, active lives. My brother-in-law now is in a wheelchair and can only work three days out of the week. He’s a brilliant chemist. It just debilitates your whole body.”
Their 5,895-metre ascent up the mountain actually begins on Wednesday. The timing of the trek is intended for the travellers to reach the summit to coincide with the full moon on August 10, an event that Brownoff claims will be a supermoon.
“It will definitely be quite spectacular! When we summit, we’ll be seeing a sunrise at the same time.”
She has done some training in the form of hiking the Ha Ling trail in southern Alberta. That trek only took two hours, as compared to the four-day experience in Tanzania.
“The mountains in Canmore which, to me, always seemed massive and huge. They’re just not quite as tall as Kilimanjaro. It’s going to be a much different experience. People see it and say, ‘You were up there?’ It’s not even half of what we’re going to be doing.”
The gentler slope of Mt. Kilimanjaro does mean that people of more varied physical abilities can attempt the climb but it doesn’t guarantee that everyone will make the summit. Even very capable individuals can still suffer the effects of altitude sickness. She explained that better physical fitness can often equate to a greater ordeal during the climb.
“We don’t want to be too healthy apparently!” she laughed. “There are lots of people who don’t make it. There’s anything from deaths to not being able to make it past two-thirds of the way up and having to turn around and come back. It’ll be interesting to see which side of the statistics we’re going to be on!”
People who want to open up their wallets and lend their support to the cause can check it out at mssoc.convio.net/site/TR/DIY/AlbertaandNorthwestTerritoriesDivision?px=2062723&pg=personal&fr_id=3342&s_locale=en_CA.
The pair are already at 97 per cent toward achieving their fundraising goal of $2,500. The donations will go to the MS Society, an organization that she likes because it keeps dollars localized to the area where it was raised.
“The University of Alberta has some of the best research for MS going on in Canada and in the world. It felt really good to know that our monies are going to be supported right here locally.”