Climbing to the peak of the highest mountain on each continent is a challenge known as the seven summits. Since it was first accomplished in 1984, roughly 2,000 or so individuals have completed the task. Anthony will soon be one of these people. But his story is unique: he plans to climb all seven summits in less than two calendar years and he’s doing it all to raise Parkinson’s disease (PD) awareness.
Anthony grew up in a military family. “My father was a disciplinarian, but he showed the right kind of love,” Anthony said. “My father held the family together. He was the glue and I admire him quite a bit.” Anthony’s discipline paid off. He’s always maintained a rigorous exercise routine and worked hard to become an attorney.
Anthony’s father began experiencing PD symptoms at 48 and was diagnosed at 52, around the same time Anthony’s mother passed away from cancer. Over the next seven years, he saw his father’s health decline, mostly due to maintaining poor health habits and old vices like drinking alcohol, smoking, not getting regular exercise or eating healthy — all things that don’t improve PD symptoms.
Anthony became his father’s caregiver during the last three years of his life, attending to his Parkinson’s needs and subsequently, dementia. Anthony remembers holding his father’s hand until his final moments. “I’m sad I don’t get to share a life with him as I go forward,” Anthony said. His grandfather also had Parkinson’s.
But Anthony is using his experience with PD to push past his own limitations and to become a Parkinson's Champion. Knowing that exercise could have helped his father with mobility, balance and everyday life, Anthony chose to join Parkinson's Champions in an extraordinarily active fundraising effort.
Anthony named his journey “Climb Above Parkinson’s,” where he’ll complete the seven summits and raise PD awareness and funds for the Parkinson’s Foundation. “My dad is my motivation,” he said. It also happens that Anthony will turn 40 during his climbs.
Beginning late 2017, Anthony’s “Climb Above Parkinson’s” journey will entail:
- In November, he will take one week, including travel time, to arrive in Tanzania, Africa. He will ascend and descend Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa.
- A short month later, he will complete the three-week climb of Aconcagua in South America.
- In June, he will climb Mt. Denali, in Alaska, the highest peak in North America. This may be the most technical climb of the seven Summits.
- In December, he will climb Vinson Massif, the highest peak in Antarctica. Probably the most logistically challenging and isolated climb of the summits.
- In April and May 2018, Anthony will climb Mt. Everest, the Asian high peak and the highest peak of the summits.
- In July 2018, he will climb Mt. Elbrus, in Russia, which is technically the highest peak in Europe.
- Finally, in August 2018, he will climb the Carstensz Pyramid, the highest peak in Australia.
With the exception of Mt. Everest and Vinson Massif, Anthony will ascend the other five peaks using his own logistical planning. In this way, he can be pure to the adventure of mountain climbing and accomplishment. Mt. Everest mandates use of guides, but Anthony will use a Nepali provider to help offset costs and increase the excitement.
In preparation for his climbs, Anthony is training in a multitude of ways. He has been an avid mountain climber for 15 years and can “run a marathon off the couch.” Since he continues to work full-time while training he goes to the gym during lunch. He fully understands and appreciates what a key role exercise can play in a person’s everyday life, especially for a person living with PD.
Anthony sees climbing as a metaphor for managing Parkinson’s or helping a loved one fight it. “Mountain climbing is an endeavor that is all about your mind and ability to accomplish something that seems not accomplishable,” he said. “It requires your own two feet — you can’t get to the top of these mountains without your own determination and focus.” Similar to his experiences witnessing his grandfather and father fight Parkinson’s.
Each of the seven summits involves its unique challenges: every hike has its own season, specific logistical and technical obstacles. His climbs will take as much physical effort as they will mental, not unlike the obstacles Parkinson’s can present to a person and their family.
“My dad did not embrace the challenge of living with Parkinson’s,” Anthony said. He hopes his campaign will support others with Parkinson’s to fight this disease, take care of their health and find hope and perseverance when something seems impossible.
Give to Anthony’s Parkinson's Champion “Climb Above Parkinson’s” campaign at www.gofundme.com/climbaboveparkinsons.