Local woman climbs for cancer research

Posted 10/29/09

Laurie Normandeau plans to be the first American female to reach the summit of the seven tallest mountains in the world — and she’ll do it in the …

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Local woman climbs for cancer research


Laurie Normandeau plans to be the first American female to reach the summit of the seven tallest mountains in the world — and she’ll do it in the name of breast cancer research.

In June she will set out to scale Mount McKinley in Alaska, the coldest mountain of all, as part of her “Power of Seven” project.

Since 2004 she has raised almost $40,000 for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and has climbed Kilimanjaro, Mount Elbrus, and Aconcagua in her attempt to help find the cure for breast cancer.

During the next seven months she will not only be preparing for the physical challenge but will be raising $12,500 for the expedition. She hopes to have much of the funds raised by January.

An avid rock climber for more than 20 years, and now a trained mountaineer, the Littleton resident says she sees more value in raising the money for research than climbing the mountains.

At 20,320 feet, Denali (Mount McKinley) lies at the Arctic Circle and is known in the climbing world for its sub-zero temperatures, harsh weather conditions and extreme physical demands. It requires more vertical climbing than on Mount Everest.

“Yet, despite these extreme challenges, I know that my trials will be trivial compared to those experienced by the victims of cancer,” the outdoor recreation specialist said.

“I view the process of climbing a mountain as somewhat parallel to those who battle cancer,” she said. “Support from friends and loved ones is critical. Having the right resources is crucial. The physical and mental challenges of the struggle are fatiguing. You are taken out of your comfort zone into the unknown, and maintaining hope, even without guarantee of a positive ending, is imperative.”

Her motivation for climbing is simple. Like so many others, she has lost her mother, and other close family members and friends to cancer and has been touched deeply by the realization that unless everyone becomes involved, and is willing to be part of the effort, there will be no cure.

To honor the cause, she will carry her “name banner’ to the top of the mountain, which has already accompanied her to the summits of Kilimanjaro, Africa in 2004, Mt. Elbrus, Russia in 2006, and Aconcagua, Argentina in 2008.

“It’s a way in which we can give honor and remembrance to those who have been diagnosed with cancer, have survived cancer or lost the final battle,” she said.

Among the names embroidered into the banner are those of her mother, Loreen Mae Woodward, and her father, Hugh Charles Combs. Her grandmother, Dorothy Woodward, is a breast cancer survivor.

“I and countless other women have benefited from the research conducted by FHCRC and other research centers, said Jeanine Camp, cancer survivor and friend of Normandeau’s.

“On a personal note, because of new research, I did not have to undergo medical procedures that may have impacted the quality of my life. Instead I am able to continue pursuing the outdoor activities that I love so dearly.”


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