My name is Allison Wusaty and I’m 37 years old. I have an amazing family - my parents Gene and Susan, my brother Andrew, his beautiful wife Deserae and my hilarious nephew, Pryce. We all live in Calgary.
I love to travel and love the outdoors so obviously, I’m excited for this adventure. One small problem….I do NOT like sleeping in a tent! I need a bath and my duvet after a day spent in the outdoors. In 2012, I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. I caught the flu, the airline lost my bag en route, and I had to go to the hospital with a foot infection. However, it was a week without a shower (and mascara) that was so much worse.
So here I am, a few years later, planning to climb a mountain (no showering for a week!!!) to raise funds and awareness for cancer.
How has cancer changed your life?
Everything changed in 2008, when my brother Andrew was diagnosed with brain cancer.
There are day to day things that have changed; a lot more doctors and hospitals in our lives, driving Andrew to work and appointments (he currently can’t drive due to risk of seizure), and a change to a healthier lifestyle. On a deeper level, it has made me reflect on the urgency in life and not putting things off. Happiness is now a family priority, which has resulted in some amazing trips together (East Africa, Peru, and Galapagos Islands). An unexpected and welcome consequence is that my family has become much closer. All of us have dealt with Andrew’s diagnosis differently, so learning how to support each other has been an ongoing challenge but has also allowed us to grow as a family.
The possibility of bad news continues to be a frightening reality with every appointment. Andrew’s cancer grade has recently changed and is now considered more aggressive (glioblastoma – this is the same cancer as Gord Downie from Tragically Hip), so there is a constant weight on our shoulders. I can’t imagine how heavy that weight is for my brother, especially with the addition of his son Pryce in 2014. It must be overwhelming.
To date, Andrew has had 4 tumour resections. In 2016, he underwent 35 consecutive days of simultaneous radiation and chemotherapy. Following that, he started a year of monthly chemotherapy, which he is currently in the midst of. Watching my brother go through this has been emotionally challenging. I’m often unsure of how to support my brother or what to do for my family to make things easier. This feeling has driven me to do something more.
What made you decide to climb Mt. Elbrus?
This is a layered answer.
First, I’ve always looked up to my brother. He is the person that always does what he wants, when he wants. No delay. He doesn’t overthink or overanalyze…he just goes for it. When I think about his fight against this cancer, it’s the same. He doesn’t stop and refuses to give up. He fights to stay positive for himself and his family, to be physically active, eat right and do everything he can to beat this. Climbing this mountain is the same. You can’t be intimidated or give up; you just have to climb it.
Second, by raising money and awareness for cancer, I feel like I’m doing something for my brother and others in a similar situation. I don’t want to feel helpless. I have to do something.
Third, my mother’s parents were from Russia, and my mom and I have always wanted to go to back to Russia together. When I’m done the climb, my mom will be meeting me in Moscow and we can celebrate as we travel around the country (and drink some vodka!)
What do you hope to achieve by climbing this mountain?
Last year, 450,000 Albertans received treatment in their local cancer centres. My brother was one of them. My goal is to raise $20,000 to support this. I also hope to raise awareness of how cancer affects people’s lives, much like it has affected my families. Hopefully people will be encouraged to live meaningful lives and make every day the best day, just like my brother does. I want to make a difference for families going through what my family is.