After stem cell transplant, multiple myeloma survivor scales Mt. Kilimanjaro

Gary Rudman has a motto: “Never quit. Never stop. Not today. Not ever.” And he’s lived by it throughout his multiple myeloma journey. It showed when he rejected unacceptable treatment options at diagnosis. It continued with his commitment to exercise during recovery. And it spurred him on as he hiked to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in February 2017, along with five other cancer survivors. “The last day of the ascent was the hardest thing I have ever done, including chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant,” Gary says. “It was cold and dark, and we were all frozen. But we kept climbing and got there.” The journey to MD Anderson Gary’s hiking days might well have been over if he’d accepted the first treatment option he was offered. When he was diagnosed with a pelvic tumor called an isolated solitary plasmacytoma of the soft tissue in 2014, Gary’s first doctor recommended a risky surgery that he’d performed only once before. “The chances of becoming paralyzed were huge,” Gary says. “I also could have lost bowel and bladder functions. So that was out of the question.” Gary kept searching until he found a more acceptable treatment plan at MD Anderson — and a team of doctors who created it just for him. “When I met Dr. Robert Orlowski, he asked me how aggressive I wanted to be,” Gary says. “And I said, ‘As aggressive as I need to be.’” Keeping a promise to himself At MD Anderson, Gary underwent chemotherapy and an autologous stem cell transplant. To keep up his strength during treatments, Gary walked laps around his unit and...