Dancing with the Scorpion
Allen Wilson, a resident of Houston, Texas, now 68 years old, continues to climb some of the highest mountains in the world with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. Raised as the youngest of eight children in the poverty of rural Ohio, he found mentorship in the Air Force, and took the chance on building his adult life in Houston.
His love for climbing began accompanying his sons into the Rockies when they were Boy Scouts. A Stage 1 breast cancer diagnosis and mastectomy, in 2003, did not deter him from his first big peak climb of Kilimanjaro. When Stage 2 breast cancer returned three years later, he has more surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, and realizes that this cancer can always return. He resolves to keep climbing and traveling internationally. On a trek to Everest Base Camp, he initiates his generous practice of taking and gifting polaroid photos of the guides and local people he meets on each expedition, making immediate kind, human connections. He also begins fundraising for breast cancer nonprofits and participates in inspirational cancer awareness endeavors, including trips to Egypt and Israel. Ten years later, in 2016, returning from a climbing trip in Iran, his cancer returns, with cancer found in the lining of his right lung and various bones of his body (Stage IV metastatic cancer). He started a new treatment regime and headed off to climb in Ecuador. Other major climbs included challenging mountains on every continent.
Allen now sees his oncologist weekly, at MD Anderson, for diagnostics and on-going treatment. Like approaching another mountain peak, he is never quite sure what lies ahead, but through his positive approach and knowledge that setbacks just create opportunities, he continues to model an inspirational, generous and meaningful life.