SURREY - As she trained for many months to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, Sharon Arthur would often crank Bon Jovi's "It's My Life," which became a theme song for the Surrey resident's charitable cause.
Earlier this month, midnight approached as she prepared to summit the mountain in Tanzania with other members of the Ascent for Alzheimer's team.
"It felt like we could touch the stars as we were climbing," Arthur recalled, "and the moon was bright orange - just amazing. And five minutes out, before we reached the summit, 'It's My Life' came on my iPod shuffle. It was so perfect - 'It's now or never,' and I got into a zone and did it. It was so inspiring."
Arthur, who lives in the Ocean Park area, was among eight team members who this year set out to do the Ascent for Alzheimer's, a signature annual event for the Alzheimer Society of B.C. The team left for Africa on Sept. 25; to be part of the week-long adventure, each team member had to raise a minimum $10,000 and cover their own travel expenses.
"Doing something like this, on such a huge scale, was a first for me, and very fitting," Arthur told the Now. "Both of my parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. In kind of a cruel twist of fate, they were both nurses and owned a nursing home in Abbotsford for 26 years that helped care for people who had similar health issues."
As a teenager, Arthur remembers watching slides of a trip to Mt. Kilimanjaro by a resident of the care home.
"That was an inspiration to do this, too," Arthur noted.Climbing the mountain was tougher than the guide, Sue Oakey-Baker, let on, Arthur said with a laugh.
To prepare, she hired a personal trainer and often cycled, for the cardio workout.
"We did some pre-arranged hikes in the summer, including Wedgemount Lake in Whistler, which was quite grueling and pretty close to simulating (Mt. Kilimanjaro). I think we gained more than 1,000 metres on that hike, to give us a taste of what it would be like over there."
For Ascent for Alzheimer's team members, the hike up Kilimanjaro is supposed to simulate the affects of the debilitating disease on the human body.
"We could climb and return, but for people who have Alzheimer's, that's it for them - they're on a steady decline," Arthur said.
She encourages people to get involved in next year's Ascent, details of which can be found online at www.alzheimerbc.org."It was a life-changing experience," Arthur said.
At the top of the mountain, she left a little silver box filled with letters she and her sister wrote to their parents.
"It was a full-circle moment completing the climb and also remembering them."
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