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Not a Failure, but a Different Ending

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Not a Failure, but a Different Ending

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?

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Ann Pietrangelo

Ann Pietrangelo is the author of No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis and Catch That Look: Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. She is a freelance writer and member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

38 comments

+ add your own
6:16PM PDT on Jun 16, 2014

Very inspiring...thanks for sharing.

6:51AM PDT on Jul 12, 2012

thank you

6:50AM PDT on Jul 12, 2012

thank you

11:41AM PDT on Nov 1, 2011

Here's to 'different endings'! And this is a timely reminder to those of us who are perfectly well, but just procrastinate - for whatever reason - to get out of our own way ... and get on!

8:47AM PDT on Jul 28, 2011

this is an inspiring story and one of courage

2:06PM PDT on Jul 15, 2011

Congratulations for your courage!

10:44PM PDT on Jun 28, 2010

A true story of inspiration. Thank you for sharing. Just goes to show perfection doesn't need to be everything.

10:02AM PDT on Jun 27, 2010

inspiring

10:34PM PDT on Jun 17, 2010

Fabulous article, thanks for sharing :) I really like that phrase 'not a failure, but a different ending', because it's so true! So many times in life when things don't go the way we wanted them to, we feel as if we have failed. But we shouldn't feel that way, because we should always remember that the Universe might have a totally different plan for us, and it is probably a much better plan than the one we had for ourselves!

8:31PM PDT on Jun 16, 2010

What a great article. Thanks for posting.

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