- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa-based organization that leads adventure trips for cancer survivors revealed Wednesday its next excursion - a journey to Tibet to hike around Mount Kailash, which many religions have deemed a sacred site.

Dr. Richard Deming, who founded the nonprofit Above and Beyond Cancer in 2011, announced 24 people, primarily cancer survivors and caregivers, will take a two-week trip to the remote mountain in western Tibet in September.

“It’s got this mythical designation that goes back centuries, and the hike itself is physically challenging,” Deming said.

The announcement comes as two survivors are scheduled to share their accounts of a recent journey to Machu Picchu in Peru on Thursday at Drake University.

Throughout his 31 years in oncology, Deming has worked with individuals and their families as they confront cancer and grapple with the possibility of death. Deming said patients consistently compare the journey toward recovery to climbing a mountain.

“It’s amazing what you can do one step at a time,” Deming said, referring to both cancer and mountain climbing.

The only organization of its kind in Iowa, the nonprofit has taken survivors in the past to Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and, most recently, Machu Picchu.

Susan Brown, a 59-year-old nurse from Granger, originally wanted to go on one of the trips as a caregiver. But in the midst of a breast cancer diagnosis in October 2013, Brown applied to attend the organization’s 2014 Peru trip. Four days after completing treatment, Brown began the group’s intensive training to prepare for Machu Picchu.

By September, she was jetting off to South America with 30 others.

“I never dreamed that I’d be going on one as a cancer survivor,” Brown said. “This was harder than chemotherapy, but now I know I can do anything, whether it’s climbing a mountain or beating cancer.”

Lorel Jeffries, a 60-year-old uterine cancer survivor, said the trip allowed her to push her limits, regardless of her diagnosis: “Here you are with a group of people who have been through horrible treatments and survived great odds to still be alive, and we’re doing something like this.”

The Tibet trip is open to applicants from across the country, and Deming says the group is typically composed of various ages, different types of cancer and diverse religions. Survivors’ travel costs are covered in exchange for fundraising and advocacy efforts, but others who join are expected to pay their own way.

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