Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Daily Press article and I with the Ershlers

Here is the news release article that ran in my hometown newspaper in Escanaba, MI. I am pictured with Susan and Phil Ershler who are featured in the article as the honorary co-chair people of the event.

Phil and Susan are mountain climbers and the first couple to summit the highest peaks on all seven continents together. Phil is also the first American to have climbed Mt. Everest and an amazing 3 time cancer survivor. You can read about their life journey in their new book titled "Together On Top Of The World" which was released in stores April 2nd.
Special note: THANK YOU ALL who have donated to my fundraising efforts, have encouraged me, sent me well wishes and congratulations, and who have believed in me by showing your acknowledgement and support. I could not have accomplished these feats or gotten as far as I have without your love, hope, faith, and prayers! Thank you! You are my motivation and driving force! :o)
Sincerely from the deep recesses of my heart and soul, Rebecca

2007 Big Climb for Leukemia

Former Escanaba resident Rebecca Dufek to scale tallest building west of Mississippi at Seattle’s Big Climb for Leukemia

Climbers ages 8 to 82 to climb tallest building west of Mississippi for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

ESCANABA, March 13, 2007 – Rebecca (De Grand) Dufek will join famed climbers Phil and Susan Ershler, the first couple in history to successfully climb the famed Seven Summits – summiting the highest mountain on all seven continents – as they battle life-threatening blood cancers Sunday, March 18 at Seattle’s 21st annual Big Climb for Leukemia.

A 14 year survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Rebecca, 35, will climb in honor of her grandfather Clarence De Grand who lost his battle Myeloma cancer last August. This will be Rebecca’s first year in the Big Climb event. In 2006, Rebecca was a member of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program which trains participants to complete a marathon while raising funds for blood cancer research. In November Rebecca finished the 26.2 mile Seattle marathon course in memory of her grandfather.

The annual climb to the top of the tallest building (by stories) west of the Mississippi raised $465,000 in 2006 to fight blood cancers. Along with the Scott Firefighter Stairclimb, March 4, the Big Climb for Leukemia is one of two Seattle climbs benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society this March.

“When I first learned about the Big Climb I thought it was a great idea! Not only is it a personal pursuit but a meaningful purpose towards a worthwhile endeavor I believe in,” said Rebecca. “Each step I will be reminded of what I and other blood cancer patients have or are going through. It is that reminder which will help drive me to the top.”

Beginning at 8:30 a.m., climbers will sprint-climb 788 feet in vertical elevation (1,311 stairs / 69 stories) from the Fifth Ave. lobby level to the 73rd floor observation deck of the Columbia Center. At 943 feet tall, the Columbia Center is about one and a half times the height of the Space Needle.

Like many competitive fun runs, both competitive and “fun” categories are available to accommodate all ages and abilities with individual climbers and teams vying for best time in six age categories and most funds raised. To make a donation to fight blood cancers in support of Rebecca’s climb, please visit her fundraising page at .

“Sometimes things are destined to be,” said Phil Ershler who along with his wife Susan will co-chair the Big Climb. “I’ve been treated for two different cancers – one just prior to heading for Everest in 2002, which delayed the quest, and the other just after the climb,” said Ershler, who has also seen his Ecuadorian goddaughter and a Whitman College classmate both survive their Leukemia diagnosis as well as losing his friend and Mt. McKinley climbing partner, the famous Iditerod winner, Susan Butcher, to the disease this last year.

“Surviving cancer means a second chance at life,” said Ershler. “This is possible, in part, because of research funded by events like the Big Climb for Leukemia. “Sue and I are honored to play even a small roll in the ongoing efforts of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.”

More than 747,000 Americans have leukemia, myeloma or lymphoma, the most common form of blood cancer. Among children under 20, leukemia causes more deaths than any other cancer. In 2006, an estimated 2,640 Washingtonians were diagnosed with blood cancer and an estimated 1,150 lost their battle with the disease.

For more information on the 21st annual Big Climb for Leukemia, please visit

When Phil and Susan Ershler reached the top of Mt. Everest, they became the first couple in history to scale the fabled Seven Summits. TOGETHER ON TOP OF THE WORLD is the story of their journey—through life-threatening illnesses—to the highest mountain on every continent, to the extremes of elation and despair. It is a love story, an adventure story, a story of success against all odds. Above all, it is the story of two people who refused to back down in quest of a seemingly impossible dream. TOGETHER ON TOP OF THE WORLD by Phil & Susan Ershler with Robin Simons will be available at the Big Climb for Leukemia and in book stores April 2. A portion of the proceeds from copies of TOGETHER ON TOP OF THE WORLD sold at the Big Climb for Leukemia will benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

About the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society®, ( headquartered in White Plains, NY, is the world’s largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research and providing education and patient services. Since its founding in 1949, the Society has invested more than $424 million in research specifically targeting leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

The Washington/Alaska Chapter ( is one of 66 local chapters across the US, with additional branches in Canada. Located in Seattle since 1984, the Washington/Alaska Chapter is close to the treatment facilities where patients and families come for lifesaving therapies. Major, annual fundraising campaigns include Team In Training®, Light The Night® Walk, School & Youth Programs, the Scott Firefighter Stairclimb, the Big Climb for Leukemia and The Leukemia Cup Regatta.

I climbed to the top of Seattle on March 18th!

Photos were taken by Big Climb for Leukemia participant Laura Cunningham at the top of the Columbia Tower (former Bank of America Tower) in Seattle, Washington on March 28, 2007.
Since I first heard of people climbing the tallest skyscraper in Seattle as a fundraiser back in 2004 or 2005, I was interested in partaking in such a feat some day. In 2005 I was still sick and in 2006 I took a trip out to Michigan with my dad to visit my grandpa. Thus after completing the marathon in November and my balance improvements this seemed to be my year and my chance to take a shot at it while I am still able.
The event is known as "The Big Climb For Leukemia" which is a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society to reach for their mission of curing blood cancers and providing better treatments and education for patients and their families. In addition to having NF2 I also was hit with a blood cancer at the age of 21 years old known as Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
Pictured here I proudly wore my Team in Training jersey from the Seattle marathon in November 2006. Written on the back of the jersey says "I am going the distance for "Grandpa Curly". In August my grandpa passed away from another blood cancer known as Myeloma. Climbing the tower I was able to get closer to him and like the marathon put reason and purpose to what he and I have been through so that our experience may help others.
In case you do not know, pictured in the background of the above photos are the Seattle Harbor, Puget Sound, and the Olympics Mountains. The guidelines said I could not bring a camera but fortunately I found someone at the top who had one and was kind enough to snap a few photos and email them to me.
From the top I looked down and could see the entire route I traversed in the marathon. It was a thrilling experience to see it from that perspective, to have some quiet moments to reflect on how I came to get to the top of the tower finally and to pray and thank God for being so gracious to me and to thank those who I have lost but are still with me and close at heart.
Below is a letter I wrote after the climb and sent out to family and friends from where I am from.

Yesterday was a successful event! I had no idea really how long it was gong to take me and when I started I surprised myself. It took me about 15 to 16 minutes to climb 69 floors of the tallest skyscraper in the city and on the west coast!

I had never been to the Columbia Tower before (same nunber of steps as the Sears tower in Chicago). I envisioned a big wide scary stairway with lots of people pushing and shoving their way to the top. There were quite a few (maybe 50?) that had the same start time as me but they formed a line and released us in pairs or groups of 3 at time intervals spaced apart.

To my delight, the stairway was the most ideal stairway I could have imagined! It was narrow enough that I could easily put both hands on the hand rails on either side and I had enough room to pass people and hang on to the left side hand rail.

The experience was so thrilling! I never wanted to stop (except I had to a couple of times to take a drink of water).

I was additionally elated to discover that my mentor from the marathon was at the event and to also meet and shake hands with Phil and Susan Eshler who are the first couple in history to climb the 7 highest peaks in the world!

Ok. LOL Enough of my babble already! Thanks for all the good wishes. They really motivated me!

Attached are photos of me taken by another participant (Laura Cunningham) at the top of the Columbia Tower. Puget Sound and the Seattle harbor can be seen in the background. It was too cloudy of a day to see Mt. Rainier and the Cascade mountains but in the one photo you can see a peak of the Olympic Mountains beyond the waters of Puget Sound.

Enjoy and have a great week!

Love, Becky blog changes

Hey I am still here! I have been on a busy hiatus. In fact there happened to be lots of changes since I last wrote which required me to get a google account. So if I happen to go missing in action again, it may just be that I got confused on the new system and forgot how to sign in.

Alright. Let me back track and give you the great news from March in another post.

Be prepared to read a few posts to get caught up! ;o)