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Aiming high for family reasons; In just three months' time, Health Editor Madeleine Brindley 15 former Wales captains in their bid to reach theroof of Africa.and.

Byline: Madeleine Brindley

back, down keep that it the topple the was unnamed, -mountain sickness crater e-inspiring" of the awe-WHEN I was 11 years old I went door-to-door in my street with an empty coffee tin, asking my neighbours to donate their spare change for cancer research.

My mother Beatrice had died a few months earlier, in October 1986, a little over a year after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She was 45.

Like many families who have lost someone special to cancer, I wanted to do something, however small, to support research into the disease.

I can't remember how much I raised - probably only a few pounds - and I can no longer remember which charity or organisation benefited from my meagre fundraising attempts.

Today I'm involved in something a lot bigger. I'm attempting to raise pounds 10,000 for Velindre Cancer Centre's Stepping Stones appeal, which will carry out research into lung cancer and improve care for its victims.

It may not be ovarian cancer - the disease that did its best to tear my family apart - and it won't bring my mother back, but the money will benefit thousands of people who depend on Velindre.

I'm doing this because I have the rare opportunity of joining 15 former Wales rugby captains, Wales coach Warren Gatland and other members of the Brains SA Captains Climb, on their quest to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro in September.

I'll be attempting to reach the roof of Africa at 19,340ft - well above the level at which people die from altitude-related conditions - and make a small contribution to the goal of raising pounds 1m for Stepping Stones.

And while I'm walking up to 16 hours a day, I'll be attempting to do what my great-uncle Henry couldn't * Health editor Madeleine Brindley will attempt to climb Mount Kilmanjaro in September, taking part in a pounds 1m fundraising challenge to improve lung cancer research awareness in Wales almost 80 years ago - reach the summit.

In the early summer of 1933 the then Paymaster Lieutenant Henry Harold, inset, hatched a plan to make an assault on one of the world's tallest volcanoes. The 30-year-old, his naval colleague Lieutenant Commander CE Lambe and two other officers onboard HMS Hawkins decided to attempt to climb the mountain while they were moored off Africa.

I know all this because Henry wrote a remarkably detailed account of his Kilimanjaro adventure - my father remembered tales of "uncle boy's" expedition and duly tracked down Henry's words.

Henry described Kilimanjaro as: "Snow-capped and rounded in shape it looked very much like a plum pudding with cream poured over it, or perhaps, more poetically put, a snow-capped helmet."

I have a 12-week intensive training programme ahead of me before I attempt Kilimanjaro, which I will need to complete to ensure I am in the best shape possible for the trek.

Henry's party discovered, to their cost, what can go wrong while attempting to reach the summit. One of the group collapsed at 10,000ft and had to be taken off the mountain in a state of delirium (he was suffering from malaria).

Within sight of the summit another member of the group collapsed, probably as a result of altitude sickness, leaving Henry, his guide Oforo and another guide to make it to the summit.

"After climbing a little while I got into a routine of five paces, rest, five more paces, rest, ad infinitum," Henry wrote. "I prayed for Oforo, a little way ahead, to think it was time to lie down for a blissful 10 minutes.

"Naturally at the start the long rests were not very frequent but as we climbed higher they became more and more so. Near the snow line, the five paces were reduced to three and the rest took place every hundred yards. ery "I could not bear to look back, made me feel sick looking down slopeandIfelt thatIwantedto over. The only thing was to keep gaze upwards, and even that depressing." it the topple the was At 17,500ft the second, guide succumbed to mountain sickness and had to descend, leaving Henry and Oforo to press on to Gilman's Point at the rim of the and the "majestic and awe-sight of the Ratzet glacier. unnamed, -ving-crater e-inspiring" "The big question now arose as whether to go on and reach the to the highest point which was around the edge of the crater and about another hour away," Henry wrote.

"The body did not feel too bad, but the spirit was flagging. There was no companion to urge me on and at the back of my mind was the thought that it might have been unwise to allow the two sick men to try and walk back by themselves.

"In the end, and with the mind making excuses, I turned my back on the top and started the descent.

"I have salved my conscience by the thoughts of a late start, no time for more, worry about the sick, mist, and the thought of the trek back to Peter's [hut] that day.

"A golden opportunity had been lost never to be recovered for the state of snow in the crater was as perfect as it would ever be and the latter part would have been comparatively easy."

Henry finished the account of his ill-fated adventure with advice for others who want to climb Kilimanjaro, including the observation that raisins and chocolate are all the food you need to keep you going during the last climb from 16,000ft.

I don't think I'll be taking all of Henry's advice though, as he also says that four blankets each are adequate to keep out the cold.

And in the photograph of him taken at Gilman's Point he appears to be wearing little more than a shirt, cricket jumper and balaclava, not to mention a jungle hat. I'll be investing in a four-season sleeping bag and an insulating down jacket and have already bought a breathable and moisture-wicking hat.

Henry's expedition was a spur of the moment and opportunistic adventure, but the Brains SA Captains Climb has been almost a year in the planning, after photographer Huw Evans came up with the idea.

The inspiration for the climb is Huw's wife Sue, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2008.

Huw, who is the Wales rugby team's sports photographer, said: "Lung cancer is not a very well-funded area of research because people think it's brought on by smoking.

"My wife Sue was diagnosed in November 2008. It brought home to us that it is not a smoking-related disease and that the prognosis for lung cancer patients is not good. We want to be able to turn that around.

"Hopefully, we will be able to say we found a cure, and it was in Cardiff."

Lung cancer is the second most common form of cancer for men and women in Wales.

More than 2,000 people are diagnosed with the disease every year but sadly up to 85% will die from lung cancer, in many cases because the disease is so advanced at the time of diagnosis.

Lung cancer rates in men have been falling gradually in the past few years but the numbers of women diagnosed are rising. There has also been an increase in the number of non-smokers developing lung cancer.

But, despite the statistics, there is little research into the disease, particularly compared to other forms of cancer and, because of the link with smoking, the disease has been stigmatised.

Dr Simon Noble, a clinical senior lecturer in palliative care at Cardiff University, who is also part of the Brains SA Captains Climb, said: "Because lung cancer is primarily a smoking-related illness, there's a perception this is a disease that you deserve.

"But because people focus on that fact they lose sight of the 10% of people who get lung cancer but don't smoke - these are the disease's orphans.

"It is true that 90% of people with lung cancer are smokers but only 10% of smokers get lung cancer so it cannot be purely down to smoking.

"Smoking is a major factor and we can't ignore that, but it's only one of several - there may be genetic components or industrial exposure. "For us to be able to fight this disease we need to know the enemy better."

* To support Madeleine's attempt to climb Kilimanjaro, visit www.

justgiving.com/madeleinebrindley CLIMB CHECK * At 19,340ft (5,893m) Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and one of the tallest, free-standing volcanoes in the world. will suffer some degree of altitude sickness.

* But the combination of altitude, low temperatures and occasional high winds make it a difficult and dangerous trek.

* The route to the summit is by a series of well defined paths and, unlike some of the world's other highest peaks, the climb is technically easy - it is essentially a week-long trek. *Around 10 climbers die from acute mountain sickness every year together with an unknown number of local porters - Kilimanjaro's summit is well above the altitude at which high altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE), or high altitude cerebral oedema (HACE) can occur.

* All the guides to Kilimanjaro emphasise that acclimatisation is essential and even then most people

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Paymaster Lieutenant Henry Harold
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 27, 2010
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