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Climbing Against The Odds (continued)

Six weeks later, she's still buoyed up by the experience. She's planning a more modest climb Oct. 13, when she'll hike up Monadnock to observe the fifth anniversary of her diagnosis. "And I think I'm going to bring my Fuji [walking] stick with me," she said.

She'll be busy this month, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with her jewelry-making business and also with speaking engagements at hospitals and clinics. In addition, she'll be at area bookstores discussing and signing "Hope Lives."

Like her first book, "Hope Lives" is a compilation of musings, remembrances and advice from people who've lived with breast cancer and its treatment. This one is aimed at women who've completed treatment.

That's a time, she noted, when "All your support systems are disappearing, just as you need them the most."

Cancer can come back, she said. That's a fact that cancer survivors have to live with. That means learning to deal with the fear, she said: "You didn't go through treatment to save your life just so you'd be miserable."

People she met when publicizing "Hope is Contagious" urged her to look at breast cancer from a post-treatment perspective. She began gathering pieces for a new collection via a questionnaire distributed through her first book and also circulated by hospitals, support groups and mailing lists. The new book is divided into five chapters: Family, Friends and Work; How is My Health?; Recurrence; Living with Breast Cancer; Happiness Is. Each offers numerous voices - some pragmatic, some whimsical, some thoughtful, some joyful.

There's also a list of resources at the end, including yoga postures illustrated by local artist Erick Ingraham.

Like the climb, the book is about people. It's not about cancer, but how individuals live with cancer and its aftermath.

And while the climb and the book offer hope and encouragement, Esser Porter notes it's important to remember the reality: That women die of breast cancer.

She was reminded of that reality Sept. 25, when she received word of the death of Rosa Meneses, who made the trip to Japan but was too sick to climb Fuji, sending her son Buhawi in her place.

"She was just 48 years old," Esser Porter wrote that night. "She was the founder of the Philippine Breast Cancer Network and she traveled all the way to Japan to Mt. Fuji with her son Buhawi to be a member of the Climb Against the Odds Team. Rosa is most certainly the reason we climb mountains. Her dignity, strength and courage were profound to witness."

Esser-Porter (right) at summit of Mt. Fuji
This is a photo of me on Mt. Fuji, below the 8th station with some of the Japanese team doctors. Approx 10,800 ft. The doctor in the middle called himself, "Patch Adams." - M. Porter

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