When Massapequa Park resident Richard Cowan set out to climb Mount Kilimanjaro last month, he knew he would face his fair share of obstacles; not only was he climbing the highest mountain in Africa—a six-and-a-half day journey that kills about 10 people each year—but there were physical limitations as well, including his arthritic hip and knee. But the 64-year-old, who is 18 months out from stage four lung and throat cancer, beat insurmountable odds and summited Kilimanjaro on Aug. 20 at 6:20 a.m., just in time for sunrise.
“At that point we didn’t feel the cold, just the exhilaration of being on the highest mountain in Africa and watching the sunrise in the east and the moon set in the west,” Cowan said.
But for Cowan the trip was about more than just checking something off his bucket list, it was a way to give back to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center—the hospital where Cowan went through a clinical trial that helped rid his body of nine tumors. He and his friend Sam Buttigieg set a $19,300 fundraising goal, $1 for each foot above sea level that Kilimanjaro rises. The pair surpassed their goal, raising $20,494.
Cowan trained for the trek since last summer, conditioning sessions that included biking 25 miles from Massapequa to Commack and 75 miles from Massapequa to Southold, as well as a trip to Colorado for mountain climbing. He said now that his Kilimanjaro journey is over, he’s looking forward to spending more time with his wife and continuing to give back to those in need.
“Life does not have to be climbing higher and higher mountains. After a year of training I would like to spend some quality time with my wife,” Cowan said. “I have been blessed by God when I responded to my immunotherapy medicine that permitted my body to attack the nine tumors and destroy them. It is now my turn to bless others.”