No Mountain Too High

Iowans with Cancer Complete Challenging Journey to Everest

No Mountain Too High
Photo by Richard Deming, MD

Justin Anderson never imagined that a splitting headache was a symptom of brain cancer, let alone the motivational path to a life-affirming journey to Mount Everest. But that’s exactly what transpired for the 27-year-old Iowan. The headache developed while he practiced with his rock band in Des Moines. When the pain persisted, he sought medical care that eventually led to an unthinkable diagnosis: brain cancer.

The outlook was sobering—on average, two to five years survival. Anderson met the challenge with an inspiring blend of faith and courage. Following brain surgery in Mason City, he received radiation therapy and chemotherapy from Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa. His treatment team was led by radiation oncologist Mark Smith, MD.

“I got the best care you could ask for from some of the best cancer doctors in the world,” he says.

Following a period of recovery, Justin was invited by Dr. Richard Deming, Medical Director of Mercy Cancer Center in Des Moines, to join 13 other Iowa cancer survivors on a trek to Everest Base Camp. The exhausting trip made him homesick for his wife and the comforts of home, but he completed the journey. During a 19-day trek, the group hiked 65 miles and reached Everest Base Camp at 17,600 feet. Then, Anderson and several others completed an optional hike to Kala Patthar at 18,200 feet—higher than any peak in the continental United States.

Now he’s back home in Ventura, Iowa, taking college courses and enjoying the life of a newlywed.