Conquering Cancer, One Endurance Trek at a Time

Mike Mankowich of Nutley, a multiple myeloma patient, recently embarked on a 60-mile journey through Patagonia to raise money for cancer research.

patagonia trek
Mike and Kathleen Mankowich and their Patagonia-trekking team raised nearly $30,000 for multiple myeloma research. Photo courtesy of Uncage the Soul Productions

Coming to grips with a cancer diagnosis is like making your way through a wild and unfamiliar landscape. Two years ago, when Mike Mankowich was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable but treatable cancer of the blood, it all felt, he says “incredibly surreal and very, very scary.” 

But Mankowich, now 58, didn’t stay scared long. “He’s a very positive human being,” says his wife, Kathleen.

That positivity saw its strongest expression this past fall, when the Nutley couple took on the challenge of a six-day, 60-mile fundraising endurance trek through Patagonia, sponsored by the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, CURE Media Group and Celgene. 

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Patagonia, at the southern tip of South America, represented another unfamiliar landscape, but of a different kind, where the obstacles were not scary concepts like chemotherapy, but mountain passes, blue-tinged glaciers, and a vast, arid steppe. 

The trek was a great success, raising nearly $30,000 to support research toward a cure and helping to restore Mankowich’s connection to life, health and hope. “At the top of those mountain peaks, I almost felt face-to-face with God,” he remembers. “It made me realize that I’m part of something big and special in this world.”

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