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Hospital staff member climbs Kilimanjaro to support those with breast cancer

New Britain [February 01 2012] - Hospital of Central Connecticut staff member Donna Boehm, R.N., has gone to great lengths – and heights – to support the fight against breast cancer.

Boehm, a Berlin resident and the hospital’s oncology program development manager, hiked 19,340 feet to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in January to raise money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure Connecticut.

“It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve done, physically,” she says. “But it was awesome.”

She was among a dozen hikers, including her stepdaughter, Kristeena McDonough of Seymour, who made the trek through Tusker Trail, a company that leads climbs and trips throughout the world.

The leader of the “Upkili” Kilimanjaro climb Boehm did is a breast cancer survivor. The trek was particularly important to Boehm, who is also a breast cancer survivor and works with cancer patients at the hospital. She did the climb in honor of people who have battled breast cancer and those, like her aunt and cousin, who died of the disease.

Remembering those people is what helped push Boehm on the last and most difficult day of the trip, she says. Boehm is an experienced hiker and walker who was prepared for the climb – but the altitude on the mountain made it a challenge. For most of the seven-day trek, the group climbed about 2,000 feet per day. On the last day, they climbed 4,000 feet.

“Somebody in the group said, ‘When it gets really tough, think about all the people who had breast cancer and couldn’t do this,’” Boehm recalls. “That’s what kept me going that last day, when every step was painful.”

At the summit, Boehm and other hikers needed oxygen, but the view was spectacular, she says.

“It was kind of surreal. It still is.”

Boehm and her stepdaughter raised nearly $5,000 for the Connecticut Komen organization -- and enjoyed an experience they’ll never forget.

“Testing your body and pushing it to its limits is something I’ve always liked to do,” Boehm says. “But this hike was special, because we were doing it in honor of people with breast cancer, and in memory of those we lost.”

Contact: Nancy Martin, (860) 224-5900, X4366

HOCC's Donna Boehm, right, and her stepdaughter Kristeena McDonough atop Mount Kilimanjaro.

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