Like most people, Troy Cusson, instructional design manager in Keuka’s Center for Professional Studies, knows someone who has faced the challenges that a cancer diagnosis can bring.
He has seen friends and relatives fight with every last ounce of energy in an effort to defeat the disease. Some succeeded. Others have not.
Cusson found a way to fight alongside those facing the ultimate challenge. He decided to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro – the tallest free-standing mountain on earth – as part of a February 2013 expedition known as “Journeys of Inspiration” that raises awareness and funds for the American Cancer Society. The Journeys of Inspiration program provides access to professional training, an unparalleled community of support, and inspiration. Through it, the American Cancer Society helps striving athletes achieve their personal goal of climbing a mountain and changing the course of cancer forever. The victories change athletes’ lives, but the finish line is just the beginning.
While preparing to confront their personal challenge, Journeys of Inspiration athletes raise funds to help save lives from cancer, taking a personal stake in the fight. Climbing the mountain presents an opportunity to get family and friends involved in a cause the athlete is passionate about.
“This is something that I can actually do,” Cusson says. “It is something that will make a difference. I’m challenging myself, and those who say, ‘you can do anything you want if you set your mind to it’. I’m going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, and I’m going to help make cancer a thing of the past.”
Cusson admits they’re both lofty goals. But, explains Cusson, so is going back to college, starting a new career, and starting a family.
“I answer calls on the ASAP helpline and I am often inspired by the students I talk to,” he said, referring to Keuka’s Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP), which serves adult students across New York working towards Keuka degrees. “These folks are fighting against tremendous odds to better their lives and the lives of their families. They work all day— some even work two jobs— and then study for another five or six hours every day and longer on weekends. They try not to lose sight of their goal, but when they do, their family and fellow students are there to lend their support. They made me realize I can reach my goal, too.”
Cusson talked it over with his family, and with their support, came up with a plan. He spent this past summer biking and hiking all over the Finger Lakes region in order to get in shape. Since June, he has logged more than 1,500 miles of on- and off-road biking, and by summer’s end, averaged about 40 miles a day. He also logged more than 40 miles of hiking, and has lost 25 pounds over the past six months, and is down 50 pounds from his heaviest state.
“People with cancer fight to overcome the setbacks that come with chemotherapy, radiation and surgery,” Cusson says. “ In many ways fighting cancer is like climbing an unknown mountain, and if you give it everything you’ve got, you just might beat it. This is how I feel about conquering this mountain.”
“Of course there is a difference between being forced to fight for your life and choosing to set off on a challenging expedition, but I hope my journey will raise awareness and funds and maybe inspire others to take on the challenges that they have been afraid to face in their lives. If I can get in shape and achieve something like this at 40, they can reach their goals as well.”
Cusson cites Keuka’s provisions for employee wellness as an important catalyst in his preparation. The Weed Physical Arts Center, with its varied facilities and its accessibility to staff, faculty and students serves as an excellent training resource, especially during inclement weather, he says. With the support of management and administration, plus workouts at the Weed, many of his obstacles have already been removed.
“I thought the major hurdle was going to be getting in shape, but it seems that I will be able to hit my fitness goals in time for the February 2013 expedition,” he said.
What Cusson is concerned about is meeting his fund-raising goals by the October 2012 deadline. By then, he must have raised $7,500 in order to be able to participate in the expedition. On top of that, Cusson has set a personal goal of raising another $2,500 for the American Cancer Society.
So far, Cusson has four corporate sponsors: Naples-based Bob’s Alignment, Mitchell-Joseph Insurance, The Grainery, and Naples Valley Chiropractic. But corporate sponsorship is just one part of the puzzle. Cusson has a multi-faceted approach. He plans on donating his portion of the money he makes playing with his acoustic rock group, The Textured Whinos. In addition, he is working with others to host some fund raisers, including a spaghetti dinner, 50/50 raffle, silent auction, recording a CD and playing concerts.
“I’m certainly open to suggestions,” he says. “It’s a lot of money, and while February 2013 seems a way off, I know every day counts.”
Cusson is counting on friends, family and co-workers to support his journey and help him make a difference. Kilimanjaro is 10.5 times taller than Bristol Mountain in Ontario County, a hike he is very familiar with as part of his conditioning, and 41 times taller than the Statue of Liberty. But it’s a mere walk in the park compared with what those fighting cancer face each day.
For more information on how you can help, click on the Kilimanjaro 2013 link on Cusson’s Web site, www.Troyseportfolio.com.