Oncologist climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro to support multiple myeloma research


by Baylor Scott & White Health

Jan 18, 2016

It’s often said that cancer is a journey.

A long road, for the millions diagnosed with the disease every year.

But it is also a metaphor for those who are trying to find a cure.

Berryman's mother
Dr. Berryman’s mother, who died from multiple myeloma.

Brian Berryman, MD, knows this journey all too well. He is a medical oncologist on the staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, who treats myeloma patients, and who lost his own mother to the disease in 1997.

“She died before a lot of newer therapies were available,” Dr. Berryman said. “It is something that fuels me both personally and professionally.”

That passion is driving Dr. Berryman to tackle one of the biggest challenges of his life. He is part of a team that is scaling the tallest mountain in Africa as part of the 2016 Mt. Kilimanjaro Trek-Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma. Dr. Berryman is the only oncologist on a team of 15 people, made up of myeloma survivors and other advocates to find a cure. The team will take on Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world, more than 19,340 feet above sea level in Tanzania Africa.

“It’s going to be amazing to see the sunrise over the continent, the highest point in Africa,” Dr. Berryman said. “To be able to see that and share it with these guys? Words cannot describe that.”

Joining him in this journey is one of his patients, Charles Wakefield, a 12-year myeloma survivor.

“It is an achievement for me, it’s an achievement to be part of a team, but the bigger picture is that we are doing a lot for multiple myeloma,” Wakefield said.

The two have formed a close bond since Wakefield was first diagnosed in 2003. They have participated in myeloma fundraising events together before, but this 11-day trek, up and down the mountaintop is the most dangerous to date. Both men have been training for this over the last few months and continue to share a common goal.

“We’d like to turn this disease into being a manageable, curable disease that you can live with,” Wakefield said.

The event was organized by the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. Combined, both men raised more than $40,000, and the team raised more than $230,000 to support oncology and cancer research.

The group begins their ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro this week. Learn why this mission of endurance is their way of giving back in this video.

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