A different-than-expected ending is not necessarily a failure.
After reaching the top of Alaska’s Mt. McKinley in 2004, Wendy Booker set out to become the first person with multiple sclerosis (MS) to conquer The Seven Summits, and within four years managed to make it to the top of six — Kilimanjaro, Denali, Mt. Elbrus, Mt. Aconcagua, Mt. Vinson Massif, and Mt. Kosciuszko.
The mountaineer, adventurer, and explorer didn’t throw herself a pity party when her second attempt to climb Mt. Everest ended differently than she hoped. The 55 year-old mother of three sees only the positive in her latest adventure.
“My mission ended very differently than I had expected, but I did not fail. I have attempted Everest twice. I took multiple sclerosis to the highest it would allow me to go. I am not planning to return to Everest at this time. I am ready to take on my next mission.”
That next mission happens to be a journey to the North Pole. She hopes that the extreme endurance sport will highlight how people with MS need to dig in for the long haul and show that “we can endure and live a very long and interesting life despite the diagnosis.”
When I first began following Wendy’s activities, I was impressed. She is, after all, an unlikely candidate for such adventures. Then I began to feel strangely intimidated.
As a person living with MS, I cannot imagine surviving the rigorous training and physical exertion she endures. But I’m not Wendy. I never had the urge to climb a mountain before diagnosis, and I certainly have no desire to do so now. More importantly, I needed to remind myself not to make such comparisons.
MS is a highly variable disease, one that manifests itself in an endless array of symptoms. Some people are able to continue a very active lifestyle while others have more challenging symptoms, or a more progressive form of the disease.
I didn’t want people with MS, or any chronic illness for that matter, to read Wendy’s story and feel inadequate. We can’t all run marathons or climb mountains. So I asked Wendy if she worried about setting impossible expectations for other people with MS.
Next: What’s Your Mountain?