For some the cancer journey can be lonely. But for Cait Horan being diagnosed with leukaemia in early 2012 was the catalyst to seek out like minds on the other side of the world and activate a fundraising force within Canberra’s indoor rock climbing community.
The Campbell High School teacher said at the peak of her illness she left full-time teaching but on occasions when her “bloods were good” she could venture to the rock climbing centre and teach. “It was sort of one of the first things I could do again that was normal life” she said. “It is such a small community, everyone was falling over themselves to help me and I thought ‘don’t help me, let’s do something a bit bigger than that.”
Searching online to check that the name she had in mind for a rock climbing challenge to raise funds for cancer research was original, she stumbled across UK founder of Climbers Against Cancer, John Ellison. He was just launching at the time connected,” Ms Horan said “We felt this immediate connection, both being sick and feeling such strong support from the same sort of people, climbers.”
Last Sunday marked the fourth Climb to Conquer Cancer event in the ACT, but it was the first where Ms Horan, now in remission, hasn’t been undergoing chemotherapy or been too ill to compete. And while she “feels fighting fit” she said the milestone was “bitter sweet”, as it was also the first competition since her friend John Ellison lost his battle with cancer in December 2015. “It’s mixed emotions. I am happy to be well and at the end of my cancer journey.” she said. “It’s also very sad that someone as vibrant and inspirational as John lost his battle with the disease.”
The event is not about being a gun climber but about participation and the celebration of the climbing community locally and abroad. “Climbers are giving people, salt of the earth people and they will get behind you,” she said. Each year climbers’ registrations go towards an annual goal of $5000, which this year will go the Leukaemia Foundation. “It’s with steely determination we all try to raise as much money as we can because that’s what’s needed to cure cancer.”