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Run for the cure? Why I’m climbing Kilimanjaro instead

The Motivator is a recurring series that features one spectacular reader – someone who's an inspiration to others. Know a motivator? E-mail community editor Amberly McAteer and share your story.

Jeff Timmons, Toronto, 32

My story: Six years ago, I began participating in the CIBC Run for the Cure, the five-kilometre run that raises money for breast cancer research and awareness. I didn't have a personal connection – but I knew the stats: The disease strikes one in nine Canadian women.

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Three years ago, about 10 days before the run, devastation hit my family: My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. That moment put everything into perspective.

The run became personal, and I kept asking myself, "What more can I do?" Getting donations in the weeks leading up to the run became a mission. I wanted to do something far-out last year, so I promised to wear a pink dress for the run if I raised $1,500. The donations came flying in and I raised $1,800.

Naturally, friends and family asked after that race: "What are you going to do next year to top the pink dress?"

I was searching for ideas when I saw a tweet from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for the cure. I knew I had to do it. I remember thinking: "That's like wearing 10 pink dresses."

Training for the climb has been so much harder than I expected: The mountain is 19,341 feet – that's about 11 CN Towers high – with five different ecosystems. It will take about seven days to reach the summit, with a 18-kilogram pack strapped to my back.

The reaction to this has been nothing short of phenomenal: I've personally raised more than $7,000 so far.

I will be in Tanzania halfway up the mountain on Oct. 6, when the CIBC Run for the Cure happens all across Canada. I'll throw on my runners and do a few laps around the base – I need my family to know I'm there with them, doing all I can to help find a cure.

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My darkest moment: My aunt had a double mastectomy soon after her diagnosis, and her struggle made it so real to me. She was beside herself, and our family was all in so much pain. That day was tremendously sad and scary: I was shown first-hand what this disease does.

She went through gruelling, heavy treatment. Thankfully, she's now a survivor.

To be honest, my struggles over the next week, climbing this mountain and everything I've gone through, are so very small compared with what anyone with this disease has to go through: Breast cancer, and all cancer for that matter, is horrific – and I just want to do everything I can to stop it.

My inspiration: Each year, every runner wears a T-shirt that asks: "Who are you running for?"

Three really good friends have been diagnosed within the past few years – and through my training and fundraising, talking with friends and family, I've learned that the disease has affected more people than I could have imagined.

I write my aunt's name, and my three friends, on my shirt: They are my inspiration. With four sisters and two brothers, I come from a very big and very close family. I'm doing this for them, trying to do what I can to ensure we find a cure in my lifetime.

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They ask me: "What's the plan for next year?" I say that's a very good question.

Know a motivator? E-mail community editor Amberly McAteer and share your story.

This interview has been condensed and edited. Editor's note: Mr.Timmons has been participating in the run for six years. Incorrect information originally appeared in this story; this version has been updated. 

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About the Author
Editor in the Opinion section

Amberly McAteer is an editor in the Opinion section at The Globe and Mail. She has been a homepage editor, online editor and community editor in Features - including Life, Travel, Style, Arts and Books. She's written columns about her quest to run a 10K and find the perfect dog. More

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