Seven years ago this past summer, I was offered the opportunity to climb one of the most spectacular mountains in the world, Denali.  I knew nothing about high altitude mountaineering.  I had no concept of life on a glacier.  So many people told me I was crazy to even contemplate such an endevor.  Many well meaning acquaintances warned that should I take on training and climbing my life would be forever and irrevocably altered and I would never be the same.  Everyone except Shawn.

Shawn was a natural athlete, every sport she took on she did with gusto and enthusiasm.  Shawn was a goalie on an all male ice hockey team.  She ran, she swam and her passion was fearlessly riding her mountain bike.  Injuries, trips to the physical therapist and hospital were all happily accepted by Shawn.  I remember both of us laying in peculiar positions at the physical therapist’s office with heating pads on our aching parts.  We would commiserate and promise one another we would not let a little injury keep us down.

But now I am recalling that summer evening sitting on the deck overlooking the beach after months of stuggling with the decision whether to take on Denali or not.  Shawn as always,  approached my climb with the same enthusiasm she would any physical challenge.  I absolutely had to do it.  To Shawn this was the ultimate, this was a no brainer.  I was so grateful to hear those words from someone who really knew what it was I was facing.

Life has an interesting way of weaving itself around us connecting us to something intangible that binds us forever.  Two years ago Shawn herself was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  As with all challenges Shawn approached MS much the same as she did sport, train, grit your teeth and fight with the best of your abilities. 

Yes, life has a way of twisting and turning delicately sliding through our hands like a satin ribbon. Sometimes we don’t even feel it slip through, perhaps if we did we would clench our fist and hold on to it awhile longer.  How I wish Shawn was here with me now facing another of life’s adventures.

On Sept. 14  Shawn passed away.  Not from MS, she was living a full active life pushing back at her diagnosis.  Shawn just died.  In less than twelve hours Shawn succumbed to an invisable, fatal virus.  I am numb.  This vital, active, recently engaged young woman is gone from my life, gone from the lives of so many who loved and admired her spirit.

My thoughts and prayers to Shawn’s sister Kim and all of Shawn’s family.  The world is a lot less bright now without her.


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October 2007
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About Wendy Booker

In June of 1998, this 55 year old mother of three was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS after experiencing balance problems, blurred vision and numbness on her left side. When first diagnosed, Wendy was devastated. But it took very little time for her to transform anguish into inspiration. She immediately turned her hobby of casual running into a continuous pursuit and has now completed nine marathons.

Mountain climbing became the next conquest. Wendy learned about a team of mountain climbers with Multiple Sclerosis who were attempting to climb Mt. McKinley (Denali) in Alaska. With no previous climbing experience, she dedicated a year to hard training and set off with them in 2002. Although weather conditions prohibited the team from completing, Wendy attempted the summit again in 2004 on her own and she succeeded!

The feeling of accomplishment she experienced propelled her next aspiration: to climb the highest mountain on each continent. Just five years later, Wendy Booker has successfully reached the top of six of The Seven Summits – Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. McKinley, Mt. Elbrus, Mt. Aconcagua, Mt. Vinson Massif and Mt. Kosciuszko. Mt. Everest, the highest mountain on earth, still awaits for 2010.


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