HPU professor and cancer survivor returns from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with doctor

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Sarah Nielsen spent a large part of this year training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

The High Point University professor is a survivor of cervical cancer and vaginal cancer.

She returned from her journey earlier this month, but it’s who she invited to go with her that makes the experience even more meaningful.

Ever since Nielsen started preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, she knew it was something she didn’t want to experience alone.

However, it took more than a year to find people who were up for the challenge.

One of the first to say yes was Dr. Elizabeth Skinner, a gynecologist-oncologist and Nielsen’s doctor.

Skinner saw the trip as an opportunity to support Nielsen as a cancer survivor and spread awareness regarding GYN cancers.

“This is not just me going off on a girls’ trip, this is a trip with a meaning behind it,” Skinner said.

Nielsen and fellow hikers, The Kilimanjaro Cancer Crushers, raised thousands of dollars to support a cervical cancer screening clinic in remote Tanzania.

“I really felt a lot of dissonance about going there and having fun and having this great trip and then not also somehow doing something to benefit the women who were really literally dying of the same disease that I had,” Nielsen said.

From there, the group focused on climbing 19,000 feet, which took about seven days.

“I think that when we initially all signed up to go, we were behind Sarah, and we were for Sarah, and we were celebrating Sarah. I think that when each of us got to the summit, though we realized that in addition to supporting Sarah, we had all kind of traveled our own journey,” Skinner said.

“To be able to identify a challenge and work so hard and then see it through was really so rewarding, and the fact that we were able to help all of those communities at the same time was just amazing,” Nielsen said.

The Kilimanjaro Cancer Crushers surpassed the fundraising goal of $10,000. The group raised more than $13,000.

That money will support the needs of the clinic the group visited and it will help fund a new remote traveling clinic in the Mount Kilimanjaro region.