Off the Mountain, Back to Life

By on May 6, 2018

By Cindi McNair—

What an incredible experience Machu Picchu was this summer! It was an amazing adventure I embarked on with a team of 20 people, most I had never met.

I, like so many, am a cancer survivor. And this year I am celebrating 10-impossible-for-me-to-believe-years since a successful Stem Cell Transplant for Multiple Myeloma. When I was diagnosed at age 42, the average life expectancy for people with my type of cancer was 5-7 years. A game changer for me.

And as I pondered a way to celebrate, to give back, and be thankful, I became aware of an opportunity to raise funds and awareness for multiple myeloma (a blood cancer) through a program called Moving Mountains for Myeloma sponsored by Takeda Oncology and CURE magazine. As I learned about the opportunity it seemed surreal that I could hike one of the most celebrated places on earth to benefit others with cancer! A team of patients, caregivers, doctors, nurses and researchers who come together to raise funds and awareness for research and hike a mountain.

And before I knew it I was signed up with a friend, agreeing to raise over $10,000 between the two of us for RESEARCH, (cancer’s game changer), and to hike Machu Picchu in Peru. Oh, and let me point out that I am not a hiker. And I live in Nebraska, so if you’ve ever passed through there, you know the long stretch of I-80 has very few hills and little elevation to practice hike! But this year is like my personal Super Bowl, my Victory lap to celebrate this big victory of LIVING with multiple myeloma as a 10 year survivor.

Looking back, it wasn’t really about the hike or the mountain or even about the beautiful place of Machu Picchu, but rather a way to celebrate these 10 amazing and remarkable years of LIVING. Since then, back home, I’m climbing my own “mountain”, every day, one step after another. Working through remission and relapse, and chemo drugs, pushing through the physical burdens to take another step and appreciate the gift of every days “view.”

I learned a lot about the Inca’s and their grit, determination and patience as we climbed to Machu Picchu. We hiked over 11 miles, and went up nearly 3400 ft in elevation and were on that mountain for 7 hours. The uncovered city of Machu Picchu was built and established around 1450 and the structure blows my mind when thinking in terms of today’s architecture, bulldozers, computer designed solutions and technology to troubleshoot answers before we sometimes even know the questions. To build this temple, manpower was the only solution. Huge granite rocks were quarried from a mountain across the way, dragged with huge long ropes by many men to the river. Where the boulders would sit until dry season, to be again, dragged across the dry river bed, up the other side of the mountain and carefully put in place to build this meticulous structure. The little things made a difference. The Inca’s planned in their primitive ways for expansion joints when the earth moved, drainage systems for the terraced mountain sides to prevent erosion and preserve water for farming. You think of the incredible work that was done, one by one, that together made such an impact; still standing today to tell a story and I was amazed.

Cancer is like that. The little thinks make a difference, Grit, determination and patience tell the story.  Cancer today compared to even 10 years ago really blows my mind. As a 10 year survivor of multiple myeloma I continue to be amazed and overwhelmed by this journey. Being a part of this group through MMRF, climbing Machu Picchu, raising funds and hiking together with a team of 20 connected to the mission of finding a cure, is an awesome sense of community, adventure and accomplishment. The advances in drug therapies in the last 10 years for myeloma and many cancers can’t begin to compare to the long, slow tedious journey of the Inca’s. Yet like their journey, who, one by one, made a difference carving steps, building cities in stone with little to nothing but man power. We too are making a difference, one step at a time, making an IMPACT and standing together and telling our stories. Having cancer allows me to live my life with intention, to not let the little things in life de-rail me (most days!) from what’s important. Because I know with me, I want to LIVE my life with cancer, not have CANCER and live my life.


Cindi McNair is from Lincoln, Nebraska and at age 42, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. That was 10 years ago and after successful rounds of chemotherapy, stem cell transplant and a healthy dose of love and support from family and friends she is in complete remission. Cindi completed her climb of Machu Piccu in 2016 as part of the Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma program.

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Off the Mountain, Back to Life