Conquering cancer and Kilimanjaro

Text: T T
By Cathy Cobbs

Gary Rudman continues training while in the hospital for treatment. Gary Rudman continues training while in the hospital for treatment. NOTE: This article is part of an ongoing series about the journey of ordinary people to overcome adversity.

“Never quit. Never stop. Not today. Not ever.”

Columbia resident Gary Rudman has adapted those eight words as his mantra, and he is living it.

Diagnosed with multiple myeloma in April 2015, his journey to recovery has been an uphill climb, with multiple rounds of radiation, chemotherapy, and a stem cell transplant that has his cancer in complete remission.

It seems fitting he will make the ultimate real-life climb next month as he and other multiple myeloma survivors ascend Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The team has already raised almost $200,000 that will be used for research and to spread awareness about the disease. Rudman has raised $13,000 towards his personal goal of $20,000.

The ascent to reach 19,341 feet will take six and a half days with the descent taking a little more than a day. Rudman said he believes his focus on healthy eating and his fitness regime will pay off during the challenging adventure.

That was never more apparent than during Rudman’s time at MD Anderson preparing for his stem cell transplant. He had only one rule: Stay out of the bed.

“ The only time I would get into bed was at night, or if I really wasn’t feeling good, and I hoped that would not happen often. I had a routine, and I stuck to it,” he wrote in his blog. ”The heavy doses of chemotherapy would reset my immune system, and my white blood cells would zero out. After the first dose of treatment, I was waiting to get sick. That’s all I knew and thought. Three, four, five hours passed. Nothing!”

Rudman even brought his bicycle into his hospital room, so he could continue to train—but it took a lot of negotiation with his medical team in order to make that happen. “My bike just wouldn’t take no for an answer,” he said.

The 16 hikers chosen to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro The 16 hikers chosen to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro After he was chosen to be among the 16 hikers traveling to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, he continued his fitness regime, riding his bike long distances, hiking and walking, and of course, eating healthy, organic food. He and the group went to Colorado in July and climbed the Mt. Bierstadt summit in order to become acclimated to the kind of oxygen-deprived atmosphere they will endure in February.

Along with training and participating in clinical trials, Rudman has made it his goal to reach out to other multiple myeloma patients and their families, making personal appearances and posting encouraging videos on his Facebook page (Never Quit Never Stop Not Today Not Ever SM).

“My goal is simple, ‘to beat multiple myeloma into continued complete remission,’” he wrote in his blog.” I do this each day with the best of my ability through a ridiculously positive attitude, intense exercise regimen, participation in clinical trials, and campaign to help patients in any way, shape, or form. Multiple myeloma is an incurable blood cancer, but not for long.”

For more information or to contribute to Rudman’s fundraising effort, visit

If you know someone who would be a great subject for “From the Valley to the Mountain?” email the Star or Cathy Cobbs at

2017-01-13 / Front Page

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