by Kaetlin Zink
One of our star BODYPUMP™ instructors at the club, Jade Tunguhan, is a mega adrenaline junkie. To show her support for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, she recently made the decision to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, located in the East African country, Tanzania.
“The challenge of taking on the climb,” Jade recalls, “as well as the thrill of embarking on a new adventure, is truly what motivated me to go through with it in the first place.”
As Jade ascended the 19,000-foot rocky beast she’d been training for, she soon realized that no amount of fitness classes could’ve made this mountainous obstacle any less of a feat. While she explained that training for things like endurance, strength, and cardiovascular work are all beneficial for the climb, overcoming the element of elevation takes exhaustion to a whole new level.
“At a certain point,” she remembers, “I knew I had reached my peak of physical exhaustion, making it just as much, if not more of a mental than a physical test from that point on.”
With every step, she could feel the intense physiological changes occurring in her body along that accompanied the rising altitude — the shortness of breath from the lack of oxygen and the rapid heartbeat. Though her body was way past the point of exhaustion, and her will tested more than ever before, she noticed the locals working tirelessly beside her on the mountain and trudged onward.
Jade even observed how the locals’ shoes were coming apart around their feet and their backpacks tearing, but they moved forward without complaint. They had so little, yet still worked so hard at their jobs – endlessly continuing.
And then there was a young man named Zach, climbing alongside her.
Zach had recently beaten Leukemia, the very disease that had made Jade’s physical adventure a reality. He stepped one foot in front of the other, determined to achieve his goal despite the many physical challenges and odds against him.
“The mountain I climbed was Mt. Kilimanjaro, but before Zach climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, the mountain he climbed and conquered was his battle with blood cancer,” Jade says. “It is stirring to see him alive, joyful, and able to do something as formidable as climbing a 19,000 ft. mountain after going through something just as formidable as cancer.”
Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that causes the number of white blood cells (responsible for fighting infections) in your body to rise dramatically, thereby canceling out red blood cells and platelets, both of which are necessary to sustain health. For patients who suffer from Leukemia, those extra white blood cells start to not function as they should, which then causes severe problems. Overall, the five-year survival rate is about 57%, with that being a slightly higher 60-65% in children.
Zach had a two in five chance of not winning his battle against cancer.
This “Miracle Boy,” as Zach was lovingly dubbed by the end of his successful journey along with the locals not only helped her climb the mountain, but also helped her find a new appreciation for life and count the many blessings she often took for granted.
While Jade first thought about the climb as an opportunity for adventure, after getting the opportunity to witness the admirable attitudes around her, she became invested in the cause on a much deeper, emotional level. She could feel the power in Zach’s story that would resonate for so many blood cancer patients and their families. “His story inspires me even more to express my ultimate gratitude for my health, and for my ability to give back,” Jade recalls. She feels that having gone through this experience has helped her take part in something much bigger than herself.
After her journey in Tanzania, her willingness to continue helping others less fortunate, in any way, is still very much alive. As a way to give back to the Tanzanian community, she plans on enrolling in volunteer opportunities back home and abroad. In particular, she plans on joining the Human Outreach Project, which is a non-profit organization based in Utah. Not only does this organization help those in Tanzania and the U.S., but it also provides sustenance for those in places like Peru and Nepal.
Jade expresses her heartfelt appreciation for the conjoined efforts in raising funds toward LLS: “Every dollar benefitted the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I benefitted by experiencing people’s kindness and generosity . . . PLUS got the experience of a lifetime!”
Take a few moments to speak with Jade if you happen to see her, or wind up taking one of her body pump classes at the club. Her uplifting attitude and willingness to help others is truly inspiring.