Wendy Booker: On top of the world
On April 23, 2011, Wendy Booker became the first person with MS to stand at the North Pole. And that was just the beginning.
After her diagnosis with MS in 1998, Booker had made it her quest to climb the world's Seven Summits. She succeeded at six: Mt. McKinley, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Elbrus, Mt. Aconcagua, Mt. Vinson Massif and Mt. Kosciuszko. But after two attempts in 2009 and 2010, she realized that summiting Mt. Everest was simply beyond her reach.
If she couldn't reach the highest peak on earth, she decided she would reach the geographical "top of the world" instead. In December 2011, she will follow her North Pole feat with a cross-country ski trek to the South Pole. Next spring, she will traverse Greenland by dog sled, completing the "Polar Trilogy."
"Taking on a physical challenge or goal is always a great way to engage your brain and move forward, but a challenge doesn’t always have to be physical,” the 54-year-old mother of three said. “Perhaps it is learning to paint, or a foreign language, or music. It doesn’t matter what it is. But during the time your mind is engaged you get back a piece of what you were before you had MS, and that is where empowerment will come from.”
Between adventures she travels the United States, sharing her story and being moved by others’ stories — like the kids of Donald McKay Elementary School in East Boston.
“These are inner-city kids from a tough neighborhood. They meet challenges every day, yet they remain hopeful and optimistic,” she said. Other inspirations include the primatologist Jane Goodall and the many women Wendy knows who are facing breast cancer: “Theirs is a frightening journey and they travel it with integrity and optimism.”
Booker has said from the start of her Seven Summits journey that the physical peaks she climbs are metaphors for the ups and downs we all face in life — especially if life includes an unpredictable illness.
“We often have to try a little harder and take a little longer,” she said. “I challenge those with MS to go out and find that special thing, that activity, that passion that will take them away from their MS, if only for awhile, and from that they will see that anything is possible.”
Get the latest news on Booker’s adventures at www.wendybooker.net.