18: Life Through a Sieve

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Going through a traumatic experience is kind of like putting your life through …

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Going through a traumatic experience is kind of like putting your life through a sieve. Certain things and people will inevitably fall away, but what’s leftover is what’s important and what stays. In 2009, Kareemah was diagnosed with cancer and underwent an amputation on her left leg below the knee. Three years later, she founded Adaptive Climbing Group. This episode is about strength in visibility and what happens when the narrative shifts from: “you don’t belong here” to “you belong here, you exist, and you matter”.

This episode is brought to you by Deuter, Gnarly Nutrition, Allez Outdoors, Têra Kaia, and Appalachian Gear Company. Music by: “Southside” by Lee Rosevere, “Ichill” by Kakurenbo, “Blue Highway”, “60’s Quiz Show”, “Well and Good”, “Knock Knock”, “Pives and Flarinet”, “Good Times”, “Downtown”, “K2”, “Filaments”, “Bit Drifts”, “Steppin Intro”, by Podington Bear. A HUGE thank you to Chad Crouch, aka Podington Bear, for the support.

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Transcript:

(KATHY KARLO): This podcast is sponsored by Deuter, one of the leading backpack brands that will help you hit the trails with confidence and comfort, but most importantly–your snacks. Deuter has a history of first ascents and alpine roots. Their head of product development even climbed Everest once, in jeans (hashtag not fake news.) Deuter is known for fit, comfort, and ventilation. Founded in 1898, Deuter believes in good fitting backpacks, so you can focus on way cooler things like puppies, pocket bacon, and gettin’ sendy, whether at the crag or in the alpine.

– We’re working with Better Help to connect you to licensed therapists. They’ll match you with the perfect therapist for a fraction of the cost of traditional therapy. You know who goes to therapy? Prince Harry. Emma Stone. Jenny Slate. Kesha. Therapy is beautiful—everyone should go to therapy. Go to betterhelp.com/climbing to sign up and receive one free week. It helps support this show, and it helps support you.

– This podcast gets support from Gnarly Nutrition, one of the leading protein supplements that tastes “whey” better than they need to because they use quality natural ingredients. So, whether you’re a working mom who runs circles around your kids on weekends or an unprofessional climber trying to send that 5.13 in the gym, Gnarly Nutrition has all of your recovery needs. The only question you need to ask yourself is: Are you a sucker for anything that tastes like chocolate ice cream? (Yeah, me neither.) Gnarly Nutrition is designed to enhance your progress—and taste like a milkshake, without all the crap.

(FEMALE VOICE): Today we’re going to talk about “allez”. “Allez” means “come on!” in a way, or to encourage. Ok! We are done with the simple and normal uses of “allez”, now let’s cut to the chase:

(KK): Allez Outdoor Personal Care products are made by climbers for those who love the outdoors. Their rich and repairing ingredients for their skincare collection are inspired by desert landscapes, and their simple and recyclable packaging makes them eco-sustainable. Allez commits to protecting the open spaces that we love by partnering with the Access Fund and 1% for the Planet. That’s Allez Outdoor: “A-L-L-E-Z”). Allez Outdoor—made by climbers, for those who love the outdoors.

Têra Kaia, made by women for women, is redefining the standard with sizing. The TOURA basewear top is their swim-friendly sports bra that’s designed for outdoor adventure—so you can hike, sweat, and climb to the summit in comfort. You can even wear it camping for days on end—it just about never gets gross (trust me, I have tried.)  You can take 10% off with code “fortheloveofclimbing” and show your support for the show. Go ahead and throw out your other sports bras because #basewear is the only top you’ll pack. Feel naked, go anywhere, look great.

– This podcast gets support from Appalachian Mountain Gear, whose All-Paca Fleece Hoodie won the 2019 Backpacker’s Editors’ Choice Award. We’ve never actually won an award, but this one seems legit. The All-Paca Hoodie offers unmatched breathability and you can wear it for days in comfort under a pack or harness thanks to its durability and design. This lightweight, eco-friendly fabric is the sustainable performance piece that you didn’t even know you were missing. You can take 10% off your order by using discount code “FORTHELOVEOFCLIMBING”, all capital letters (because we’re shouting…for emphasis.) Appalachian Mountain Gear stands by responsibly sourced alpaca fiber and this podcast.

(KAREEMAH BATTS): I think when anybody goes through any traumatic experience, and this is not just about a major rare cancer stage four disease, but just traumatic life experiences, it’s—do you know what a sieve is? Like, a sifter for flour or food. I feel like your life goes through that. And certain things or people will fall away and then, what’s left over is what’s important and what stays.

(KK): When Kareemah put her life through the sieve, she didn’t really have a choice. Cancer doesn’t really allow that. Kareemah Batts was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare type of cancer that affects soft tissue. She underwent an amputation on her left leg below the knee followed by treatment for one year. And by 2010, she was in remission. As a stage four cancer survivor, Kareemah has learned how to persevere through cancer and recovery with equal parts grit and grace.

(KB): We have this thing where you compare your life—you know, before cancer and after cancer. And it could put you in a state of depression if you’re not able to dance the same, run the same, and you’re frustrated with your progress into what your life is. And so, that’s what I was going through at that time. And so, instead of picking surfing which I’ve done before, instead of picking kayaking which I’ve done before—I decided if I picked something that I’ve never done before, then whether I do well or not in it, I’m not expecting to do well and so, I would still come away feeling good about it. My family thought I was going through some post-cancer survivor she’s-trying-to-kill-herself-now-‘cause-she-survived-stage-four cancer. Why would you wanna do that? Couple of friends were asking questions: “So, you gonna go watch people rock climb?” I’m like, “No, no. I’m actually gonna go and do it.” and she’s like, “Uh-huh.”

(laughs)

You know? I’ve seen movies.

(KK): Mm-hmm. Yeah.

(KB): (laughs) We all saw Mission Impossible.

(KK): True confession: never seen it.

(KB): We believe that Tom Cruise totally free soloed that.

(KK): You’re listening to For the Love of Climbing Podcast. This is not a climbing podcast. Well, sorta. This is a funny, sad, and somewhat uncomfortable podcast about choosing vulnerability and talking openly about our pain. This podcast is sponsored by Dirtbag Climbers. Here’s the show.

– This episode is about strength in visibility and what happens when minority groups are represented in mainstream climbing and outdoor media. As visibility increases, the work that Kareemah continues to do plays a huge role. Even today, there’s a limited range of stories being told—particularly with regard to racial minority. As these mediums start to reflect more diversity, the more we can see a shift in a collective social consciousness to be intentionally inclusive of people from a whole range of different backgrounds. This creates a sense of affirmation and where the narrative used to say, “you don’t belong here”—it slowly shifts to “you belong here, you exist, and you matter”.

(KB): I was a cancer survivor for I would say about a year. I was getting used to wearing a prosthesis and kinda getting my body back ‘cause I went through about seven rounds of chemo and plus, the surgery to amputate a portion of my leg. And so, this was like my recovery time—my period of kind of trying to find myself, both emotionally and physically. At that time, I was kind of trying everything. You know, I’ve rode a bike before but I’ve never rode a bike as an amputee. Went swimming before but never went swimming as an amputee. So, it’s kind of like discovering life again—being baptized into a new body and just trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t work. I started to hit this stage of depression. It could have been a number of things: it could have been the relationship I was in, it could have been my family. Could have been all the medical bills

(laughs)

Could have been living in the projects. I don’t know! One of those things—maybe all put together. And so, when that opportunity came to leave town and go to Colorado and pick an outdoor sport, I picked the one I was least likely to ever do well in, which was rock climbing.

(KK): Kareemah received a scholarship to Colorado Mountain School with a non-profit organization called First Ascents. First Ascents took young adult cancer survivors and fighters into outdoor experiences for the first time, and over a period of time, Kareemah went from “I just survived cancer” to “I’m going to try rock climbing for the first time” to “I’m going to build a community.”

(KB): All that stuff is by accident. I was tired of my co-workers’ beta. I just felt like the dudes giving me beta were like, “Yeah, you just pump your ankle—“ I’m like, “I don’t have an ankle there! That beta does not work for me!”

(laughs)

You know? Like, I would start to actually get frustrated climbing with them. And the first time I ever climbed with another amputee, it was almost like my movement opened up. Just one couple of notes and I was like, “Oh. That makes sense.” And then it just changed everything.

(choir sings hallelujah)

I also benefited from it health-wise—just mobility. Basically, a lot of amputees suffer from things like lower back pain. You know, ‘cause you’re working your core, you’re working your lower back, and sometimes you’re working your leg, like—balancing. You’re balancing, you’re flagging. ‘Cause people thought I was seeing some physical therapist or something—I never saw any physical therapist. I just was like climbing.

(laughs)

So.

(KK): Climbing is therapy.

(KB): Yeah, it is therapy in a lot of different ways and I thought that was pretty awesome. And we had an amputee support group at NYU and every month, we did an activity whether it be going out to dinner or bowling. And, you know, you can suggest an activity—and I suggested climbing. And I showed them my YouTube videos of me out in Saint Mary’s Reservoir and the Bastille and all that stuff. And they’re like—what? Not just because they were like amputees, but because we were New Yorkers from Brooklyn. And they’re like—what?

(laughs)

I mean, when you think about it, this was 2011.

(MALE SINGER): No sleep till. No sleep till Brooklyn. No sleep till…

(KB): And so there was still just like, one and a half climbing gym in all of New York City and now there’s like seven—

(choir sings hallelujah)

—It’s blown up so much. So, you have to think that climbing was still not as trendy as it is now. It’s not in any TV commercials. It’s not winning Oscars. It’s some crazy thing that people not living in New York City do. And so, there was that part of getting them to grasp that. But what really pushed it forward was: I went to Kansas City. There’s this thing called Amputee Coalition. And they have an annual conference where hundreds of amputees come together and it’s like a whole four-day thing. You try out all these different sports from hand biking—they have standup basketball. They have all the latest technology for amputees to use—whether it’s prosthetics or something else.

And now, I’m up to this point where I’m trying to convince others amputees to climb with me. And so, we go to Kansas City. They had this mobile rock wall up—it was all on auto-belay. And it was about thirteen New Yorkers from my group that went to this Amputee Coalition event. And I watched a bunch of my peeps go up there and I saw the smiles as they came down off belay. And I was like, “Oh! I gotsta do this. Like, this has got to happen now. Like, I’m sure this is what I need to be doing.”

(KK): Attending this conference in Kansas City changed everything. It gave Kareemah the chance to see how much joy climbing brought to her friends’ lives, and it was at that conference where she met Ronnie Dickson, three-time USA Climbing adaptive national champion and now-owner of Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates of Tennessee.

(KB): “Hey, you ever been to New York before?”

(laughs)

And he’s like, “No.” I was like, “Cool. Imma reach out to you in a little bit.” Which he started to learn—that’s just how Kareemah works. Like, if I talk about it—it means happening. It’s not an idea, it’s not a possibility. It’s like, she says it’s happening—this is what’s gonna happen. Coming from that meeting and then going back to New York and then trying to figure out how this was going to work—‘cause note, I was very new to climbing. Like, a year. And climbing in Brooklyn Boulders and Brooklyn—which was, I’m from Brooklyn, so that was my neighborhood and local gym. It’s where everyone went at that point. And so, the marketing manager then at that time for EMS knew the co-founder, Lance Pinn, and connected me with him via cell phone.

Nowadays, you would never give your cell phone out like that but, apparently, that’s how I got Lance’s cell phone. I’m sure he wondered that now. He’s like, “Did I really give her my cell phone number?”

(laughs)

Who is this person calling me?

(KK): Who is this person calling me every day?

(phone ringing)

(KB): But I was like, “Hey, you ever had any disabled people come in your gym and climb?” And he was like, “No.”

“Do you want to?” He was like, “Sure.” By the way, other gyms did not say yes that easy! And I’ve worked with a lot of them across the country. It was literally a four-second delay on whether or not. I was like, “Hey! You wanna have some…?”

“Sure!” Other people were like, “Uh, I don’t know. Let me check this. Let me check insurance.” He just right away just said yes.

People see people with disabilities as a walking liability. They think, “We’re gonna get sued. They fall.” We get hurt more. You know? Maybe they feel like their facilities or the buildings are not ADA compliant, which by law, they’re supposed to be. You know, there’s a lot of different reasons. People are just scared. That’s just what it is. People are just scared of the unknown. That’s just a natural, human reaction of fear. It’s just literally like, your exposure to people with disabilities is minimal and your immediate reaction is fear and dislike. That’s just it. I don’t understand it—I’m not going to touch it. I don’t get it—the safest thing for me is stay on my side of the wall. You know what I mean?

Times have changed, you know. We’re now a part of US Climbing. We weren’t when I started and I was the first female USA paraclimber to compete in a USA climbing comp. It was me and Ronnie Dickson again, and Craig DiMartino and like three other dudes. That was just it. It was like me and five of us in a hotel. We were broke. It was awesome.

(laughs)

I look back now on those days and I’m thinking, “Look at that! All of my athletes have a bed to themselves.”

(both laugh)

(KK): That’s how you know you’ve made progress.

(KB): We’ve made progress. No one’s sleeping on the floor of the hotel room covered in a duvet. We are balling.

(laughs)

(KK): Progress would be an understatement. The Adaptive Climbing Group was founded in 2012, dedicated to spreading the message that anyone can climb. Not only did Kareemah become an advocate for access, but she enhanced programming starting in Brooklyn, New York that cultivated independence for climbers with disabilities everywhere. Adaptive Climbing is dedicated to supporting and sponsoring adaptive climbers—that’s right, signed athletes, who have gone on to compete in World Championships. Most importantly, Kareemah teaches her athletes to know their worth.

(KB): It makes me feel like I’m in a dream-state. Like, honestly if you asked us how long would it take for us to get to this point—we were like, “Maybe ten years from now, this will happen? Maybe in fifteen years from now, we’ll have this?” And now it’s like, we have movies about us and actual sponsored athletes which I pushed really hard for. It seemed farfetched to everyone else when I said it and I was like, “Yeah. I’m gonna, um, have athletes be sponsored.”

(laughs)

We’ll say not everybody was really believing the things that I thought could or can happen. I believe in small possibilities—if there’s a small possibility, it’s definitely gonna happen. You know what I mean? I believe in that small inkling, you know? What do they say—“beyond a reasonable doubt”? So, if you say, is this a definitive thing that’s never gonna happen? Then, guess what? There’s no point in trying. If this is a thing where there’s a reasonable doubt to it that it could possibly happen, then why not give it a try? Because we already know there’s only two ways it can go.

I am known to be a bitch in the work that I do. It’s only because I am passionate about it. They’re like, “Oh my god. Kareemah just came down on me again.” Like, “Aw, why is it this way? Why don’t we have that?” It’s because I believe we deserve it and so I’m like, “Really?” Like, “He only gave you what? Shoes?”

(both laugh)

No, but like, someone will be like—ok. Let me give you a good example. So, earlier, before we actually had signed athletes and brands that are people with disabilities, people would get excited just because they got some free chalk and a pair of shoes. And I’m like, “You’re an athlete! Oh, you’re on the US team with all the other US athletes? Oh, you brought home medals and you psyched about some shoes? I ain’t posting about that, man! That gets one post. One pair of shoes gets one post.” Or not even free shoes—a discount code! And I’m like, “No! Because your face and your image matters. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t be on the collective. You know, you’d be on a different level.” And just—empowering my athletes to be able to know their worth. That’s really hard—for people to be like, “This is my worth.”

You have to understand that maybe their whole, entire life up to this point, everyone’s like, “You should just be thankful for what you get as a person with a disability. You should be thankful there’s an entrance you can get into. You should just be thankful that we allowed you to climb in your gym. You should be thankful—that we allowed you to join us.” And I kinda got that feeling sometimes when I talked to certain vendors, sponsors, proposed gym partners. You know?

I remember approaching someone saying, “Hey, you know. We’ve been shuttling this equipment hour and a half, two hours to your facility. It would be great if you had your own. And then, when you have people with disabilities, they can climb on this specialized equipment that Misty Mountain makes. Which is like these wheelchair harness systems which we all use, like literally every adaptive climbing program in the US—it’s the only one that makes it.

And they said, “Well, we don’t really get any disabled people in here so, our bosses said that it’s not worth the investment.” And I was like, “Well, have you ever heard ‘if you build it, they will come’? If you actually had it, then people would come. Do you say, ‘Oh, we don’t have any people bouldering, so there’s no reason to build bouldering walls.’ But if you had bouldering walls and people would be like, ‘Oh, hey! There’s a new bouldering spot that opened.’” Like, come on! Don’t give me that kind of excuse, you know. So, I hit people with numbers because people understand numbers. They may not understand the human experience of being a person with a disability or the traumatic experience trying to apply for a job and other things like that.

So, I say it like this. I’m like, “Hey, you’re trying to sell a family membership. People with disabilities make up a fifth of the world’s population. Right? There’s over a million people with disabilities in New York City out of the eight a half million people—and that’s registered people with disabilities. In that, everyone knows at least one person in their life—in their family or a friend—who has a disability. Family memberships would get sold more if the siblings and a person with a disability and the parents could all take part in the same sport together, which is inclusion. Which means that family’s gonna spend more money here.” You talk to them like that—they’re like, “Oh! Ok.” Before the notoriety, before this became a trendy thing to do, before they started asking us to come in—that is how I approached them. I did not approach them on: “This is a great thing to do! This feels good!” because, to be honest, they got bills to pay. I don’t know if you’ve seen the rent in New York City—it’s a biyatch.

(laughs)

They have to come away with something. And then—once it gains value beyond money, then you can talk, “Well how do we feel about this?” And this is my advice, not just for people who are trying to start an adaptive climbing community and trying to convince their bosses this is the thing to do. l think that if you’re really trying to communicate to people and you’re coming from a different side of things, like non-profit to profit, you need to communicate on their level and not just say, “They’re evil,” or “They don’t want to do this.” ‘Cause I’ve heard that response before. They’re like, “Well, they said they don’t want to do this. They’re opening up a new facility. They don’t have time.” And I was like, “Well, make sure that they know that they’re not spending any time—that you’re doing all the work. Show them the stats, show them the value of it, the return on investment—because that is what they know. ‘Cause they’re business people. You can’t expect business people to check the water supply in Africa.

(laughs)

That’s not their primary focus and that’s not their specialty—that’s yours. Communication and getting work done is not just about whether or not you’re passionate about what you do, but if you’re able to communicate the value to various types of people in ways that they can understand. And then, eventually, have them come over to the side that goes beyond money, beyond numbers, beyond metrics. And I think that that’s what I am effective at doing.

(KK): Kareemah understood the need to see these changes, but she also came at it with an understanding of growth in the sport which meant: business and marketing. Passion for something was only one piece of the puzzle. This required savvy business and communication skills, as well as a deep understanding of the growth of climbing as a competitive sport.

(KB): People who really want it, they’re on it. We sponsored, I don’t know, seventy-something—no, no. More than that. Hold up a second. We got seventeen athletes this year? We’re about, I would say eighty sponsored competitive athletes nationally and internationally. We sponsored the first South African paraclimber last year. People who don’t have residencies, people who have visas, contacting their climbing federations. I’ve given athlete housing to people from other country’s climbing federations. You know, whatever I can do to help people access.

And people actually ask me why I concentrate on competitive: because, as someone who’s been in marketing, I know that completion pushes others sport forward, like the recreational side forward. That’s what people invest money in. America’s definitely that “Olympic competition” culture. That is a huge part of our culture. So, even if they don’t climb—climbing goes into the Olympics, anybody who doesn’t climb or is like, “I don’t get this bouldering thing. I don’t get this sport clip thing. I don’t understand why this is hard. Why is this crowd going, ‘Ahhh!’” Like, nobody understands that. But they can understand going fast from point A to point B, and then that’s the one that’s circulating all over the marketing and the news. And then that is what’s making people go, “Oh, I want to try that. Oh, that’s something I can relate to—going fast. I don’t understand crimpers, jugs, underclings. I don’t know what any of that stuff is.

(KK): What’s a sloper?

(KB): What’s a sloper? Yeah, what’s an offwidth? I don’t know what that is. you know, like, all these things—nobody knows these terms but people can understand fast. There’s a lot of people who are starting to climb just based on the speed climbing, just based on the marketing and understanding the sport which is putting the recreation part more forward and making people say, “Oh, well—I got the speed thing. Hey, what’s that other thing over there?” So, I understand that competition moves sport forward and so that’s why I put a lot of concentration into it. But we also do outdoor trips. We also talk about gym integration which is disability etiquette on and off the wall. That’s my focus. More than the technical equipment side, my focus has always been on disability etiquette, on and off the wall. Garnering independence where a person with a disability, people don’t understand how to be supportive but not overly done.

A perfect example is: someone comes into the facility with a wheelchair. And it’s because a lot of able-bodied people get really excited when they learn a new skill, too, as well. So, they learned how to use the wheelchair harness system that Misty Mountain makes and so immediately they put them into the seated harness. Not asking if they can stand up, not asking if they can transfer on their own, or what the mobility in their legs is or what the percentage of mobility is—can you get a ninety degree? Sixty-five percent? Like, they don’t even ask—they just immediately put them into the easy seat harness. The person feels not connected to the climbing because they do have strength in their legs but they were never asked. They don’t have as much upper body strength as let’s say a paraplegic who only uses their arms to get around. So, they can’t use the jugging and pull-up system, and it’s too hard and they can’t finish it. They never even asked him: “What do you want to do today? What are your climbing goals?”

And I had this discussion with someone who wanted to join our leadership team. I said about being of service: “How do you service a community? How do you know that you’re servicing a community? How do you find out what the community needs?” You ask a question. You don’t say, “I’m gonna fix the community! I’m gonna fix the neighborhood! I’m gonna fix, fix, fix, fix, fix!” It’s like, “Hey, what do you need? How can I support you?” Because then you’re garnering independence for them to be able to triumph and learn on their own. So, I’ve never asked someone, “How can I fix this?” I say, “How can I support you to be able to do this so that you can be able to do it?” And everybody’s experience and then what they value is different, too.

So, if Kathy says to me, “Hey—I have this and this and this and this to do this week. I’m so overwhelmed.” And then I said, “Hey, I’m free on this day and this day. How can I support you so you can finish what you need to get done—and not be so overwhelmed?” Like, that is being of service.

(laughs)

Not telling me unsolicited advice: “Oh, I saw you didn’t have juice in your fridge and so I went and got juice.”

“I’m allergic to that juice. Why didn’t you ask me if I needed juice? What if I have a sugar thing and I don’t want juice? You’ve ruined everything! Everything’s ruined. We have to start back. You’ve wasted money, time, I’m not happy, you’re not happy ‘cause you felt like you did something and you didn’t do it right. So, being of service, I think, is a very important thing that I think I try to teach to everyone—that leadership does not just mean being in charge. Leadership means being of service. When I see managers who are like, “Oh, yeah. I don’t work on weekends.” I’m like, “How’s that possible?” My team will tell you—very rarely will I be like, “I am not going to answer you.”

(laughs)

The Slack stays on twenty-four, seven. I’ll be like, nine o’clock. I’ll be in the airport, it be Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.

(KK): Oh my god, Slack.

(KB): (laughs)

I have a Slack channel for every climbing facility that I work in. And then I have a Slack channel for my leadership team. And I have a Slack channel for my athletes. My athletes send me a message: seventeen athletes all across the country from Colorado to New York—they’re all gonna get an answer. I believe in the twenty-four two forty-eight-hour method. I try my best—I’m not saying I’m great ‘cause I have like five inboxes, so. I can’t say that I’m definitely on it, but I try to be as responsive as possible because people talk about the value or importance of things. And my thing is that—what’s important to you may not be a high priority to me, but because it’s a high priority to you, I’m gonna give you an answer—because it’s going to put us at ease to work together in the future.

My parents are from North Carolina, so they had some sort of rules and I came from a very strict Christian home. I wouldn’t say “strict”, I would say stricter than everybody else I knew in New York City—besides some Jews here in Williamsburg. But I grew up keeping the Sabbath. My ears aren’t pierced. I don’t have tattoos. You know, it’s very simple. Even though I don’t practice keeping the Sabbath, there’s a lot of ideals that stuck with me and a lot of those things are being of service.

And it’s interesting to also see how all these pillars—I would call them pillars because we all started off as foundations. And sometimes, I get a little bit more comfortable by saying that I am one of the pillars of paraclimbing in America in a sport moving forward. But there’s a handful of people from the beginning, like 2010, 11, 12 where I feel like the movement really kinda jumped forward and grew and got organized. I feel like those people, just to see how they’ve grown. We’ve all grown individually, like where we were in our lives whether personally or professionally, and how our involvement has changed, what we decided to do with the rest of our lives. You know, I met people who were working at JP Morgan and totally switched to being accessibility coordinator at the DOT based on their experience in adaptive climbing.

I feel good about what I do every day. Whether whatever the monetary or the physical or the gears results are, I always feel good. You know, I don’t feel like I compromised and that was something I made a promise to myself post-cancer about because I felt like before that, I was definitely very much a people-pleaser. You know, not really taking care of my feelings and how I felt about something and definitely not being vocal about it at all. Now I can’t shut up about my feelings. You’re like, “I hate that. That’s stupid.”

(laughs)

I’m not afraid to say that. Honestly, you just have to almost die a few times, and then it just kind of puts you in perspective. I don’t suggest it, but if it does, it’ll help.

(laughs)

Climbing saves lives. That’s it. Synovial sarcoma survivor. I’m not saying that anybody who’s diagnosed listening should be like, “I should go climbing. I’m going to live if I go climbing!”

(laughs)

I was actually told not to climb when I wanted to go ‘cause I had multiple pulmonary embolisms during treatment and going up to a high elevation—I’d never been to Colorado before. They were concerned about me doing that. But I’m not really good at like—I’d be like, “So, you’re saying there’s a chance, right? Yeah. So, then I’m gonna do it.”

But that experience in my life between becoming a cancer survivor, becoming an amputee, all the personal stuff that I went through, all the people that I lost in between, and then all the people that I gained, is actually what makes me push so hard. I’m a pusher of good stuff, you know? I push for good things. I want everyone to have equal opportunity. If you look like you’re into it, like you’re passionate about it—Imma put a hundred fifty percent into you. If I see someone just putting forth an effort, I’d give them my effort too.

(KK): Even though I still have no idea what I’m doing—things are happening. And if you’d like to help out and support this podcast, please check out patreon.com (that’s P-A-T-R-E-O-N) where you can sponsor us for as little as $1 per episode. It really helps keep this podcast going, and I’m so grateful for all of your help. Special shout out to Cameron MacAlpine because he makes this thing sound good.

– You’re listening to For the Love of Climbing Podcast. A huge thank you to Deuter, one of the leading backpack brands that will help you hit the trails with confidence and comfort. And a big thank you to Gnarly Nutrition for supporting this podcast and the messages that we share. Gnarly Nutrition supports a community of vulnerability and equality—and tastes like a milkshake, without all the crap. A big shout out to Allez Outdoor for supporting the Access Fund and 1% for the Planet. Allez Outdoor Personal Care products are made by climbers for those who love the outdoors. And thanks to Têra Kaia. Go ahead and throw out your other sports bras because #basewear is the only top you’ll pack. Feel naked, go anywhere, look great.

Support companies who support this podcast—we couldn’t do it without them. If you liked what you heard, you can leave a review on iTunes or give us a like—like all good things, you can find us on the internet. Until next time.

 

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