Michael Wild, 38, from Stockport and his wife, Cynthia, are planning to climb the seven highest mountains in each of the Andean countries despite Michael being diagnosed with a very rare brain tumour in 2013.
At the time, they were visiting Cynthia’s family in Ecuador for the Christmas holidays when Michael took on the challenge to climb Cotopaxi Volcano. During this venture, Michael started experiencing severe altitude sickness for the first time in his life, despite being a keen mountaineer. He had to cut short the climb only to wake up the following morning with an excruciating migraine – also, for the first time in his life.
As the pain intensified, Michael was rushed to hospital and, following a CT and MRI scan, he was diagnosed with a colloid cyst. This is a type of low grade tumour usually found the centre of the brain and affects less than one in a million people. He flew back to the UK in early January where Michael’s GP referred him to the Salford Royal Hospital to discuss treatment options.
Due to the location of the tumour and the risk of damaging Michael’s brain, surgery was not possible. But, as the tumour continues to increase in size, a craniotomy may be required in the future which does come with the risk of causing damage including to Michael's memory, hearing and balance. He has scans every 18 months to monitor his condition.
But Michael is not letting this stop him and he plans to take on the climbing challenge and be the first person with his type of brain tumour to do so as well as raising money to help find a cure for the number one cancer killer amongst children and adults under 40-years-old.
“I have experienced and seen enough of life already to know that it’s precious, unpredictable and short. So, I want other people who may have been struck down or afflicted with different conditions to know that, as long as you have heart, perseverance and good people around you, that obstacles become hindrances, hindrances become lessons and those lessons make you stronger. This can all help to propel you forwards to your goals and ambitions."
Michael and Cynthia, who also has cysts in both of her feet which often make it painful for her to walk, will be climbing the seven highest peaks in the Andean countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. To allow for weather conditions, training and health requirements, they will complete the challenge over 18 months from next month.
Michael added: “My world was smashed by a physical avalanche that I could never have planned for. I am on the ‘watch and wait’ list for treatment which is a scary place to be but I have not and I am not going to let it stop me.
“As soon as I found out about The Brain Tumour Charity online, I was convinced that I would be in touch with people who show compassion and empathy and who are doing everything to help future generations who may be affected by this disease. There is a real lack of understanding around what the true causes of brain tumours are and research into this, like that which is being carried out by The Brain Tumour Charity, is really needed.
“Before climbing a big mountain, Cynthia and I always get butterflies in our stomachs. But, ahead of this specific challenge, I feel nervous, excited and confident with a responsibility not to let people down and a hunger to succeed.”
You can find out more or donate to Michael’s fundraising here.