ZM, Cancer, and the end of a Dream


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Ian Gill

Big Wall climber
Redding, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 24, 2012 - 08:25pm PT
It's taken me over a week to put this post up - I guess it's a place I just didn't want to visit in my mind. I couldn't officially accept the answer "No". If you read my last post, you know that for almost the last year I've been training and outfitting myself to get back on the big walls with a solo ascent of ZM, as a gift to myself for beating cancer and alcohol. I just wanted to climb again until I was too old to do it anymore. Ironically, with a month to go, I get smacked in the face with a cancer diagnosis again. I was still planning on going - but since that time, things have gotten much more complicated, and I'm officially one sick puppy.

I'm writing this because so many of you showed your true colors and stepped up with offers of help in getting my bags up to the base and off the top, mega moral support - even a few who couldn't be there offered $$ to anyone else who could help me haul my stuff. The power of the TacoStand truly came through, and I'm proud to call myself a member of this climbing community. I was not only touched, but completely overwhelmed at the selflessness of you all - and so many that I didn't even know! - in short, it blew me away!

Maybe that's why this is hard to write - in a sense, I feel like I've let people down. I know that's not the case (maybe except for the free beer that would have been available), but that's the way it feels.

It turns out that I have not one, but TWO cancers to deal with (very rare). The tumor in my lung tested positive for Melanoma (I once had a pre-cancerous lesion removed off my back), while the others appear to be colorectal cancer (my original cancer) that has metasticized to various parts of my body. But just to make sure, I have to have my liver biopsied this Wednesday to make sure which kind of cancer it is. They couldn't put a stent in my kidney to unblock it, because when they went in, they found that another tumor had eaten its way through the ureter wall and was causing the blockage. About 2 weeks ago I started to develop "lymphodema" in my right leg, meaning that my right leg is constantly swelling up due to a cancerous lymph node mass on my right side near my groin. If it was swelling up that much just from walking around the house, how bad would it get after climbing all day? I find myself prone to lightheadedness and short dizzy spells, which is probably not the best thing to have in the middle of a hook lead.

I finally had to make the call. Hudon assured me that if things went medically wrong, and I had to bail from say, 1,000 feet up ZM, that it would be a major ordeal. Seriously, it hurts more to know that I possibly may not climb a wall again (I'll be 54 this year) than it does to know I have cancer again. Sound crazy? Well, its the truth! I don't know what lies ahead now, I just know I have to find a way to beat it any way I can.

I will never forget all the support, well wishes, and people willing to give of themselves just to make my dream come true. That memory will live with me while fighting this f**ked up disease one more time. I know it's going to be a rough ride this time. Thank you all again, SO many times! And Hudon, Ekat, and Gagner? Extra thanks, you are all class acts!

The Granite State.
Jun 24, 2012 - 08:31pm PT
I feel like I've let people down

No way dude. Not a chance.

Jun 24, 2012 - 08:33pm PT
F*$k cancer .... lets focus on your comeback buddy.

Will call later...


Trad climber
Can't get here from there
Jun 24, 2012 - 08:33pm PT
Truly a hard row to hoe.
People can be so kind, and then life enters.

I wish you the best of luck with your journey that you face, from your words I can tell, you will face it head on and with purpose.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Jun 24, 2012 - 08:33pm PT
Oh no.

Don't worry, you're not letting anyone down. You did your best to step up to your dream, and in the meantime found a lot of supporters.

The SuperTacoTeam is here to offer our continued support, wherever your story will lead you.

Thanks for being strong enough to share your journey here, with us.

Trad climber
Nevada City, CA
Jun 24, 2012 - 08:48pm PT
Heal up then climb! Good thoughts going your way ;-)
wayne w

Trad climber
the nw
Jun 24, 2012 - 08:54pm PT
Sending healing energy and positive vibrations your way Ian.

Boulder climber
Salt Lake, UT
Jun 24, 2012 - 08:59pm PT
Crap. Being a colorectal cancer survivor myself, I was pulling for you to get up that wall, but it sounds like you are making the right call.
I work in the health care industry and have plenty of contacts. Feel free to message me if you have questions or want advice and I will help where I can.

Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Jun 24, 2012 - 09:06pm PT
You ain't done yet, Ian!

Max wants to buy all the gear you bought but he's willing to lend it back to you the minute you need it after you beat this latest setback.
Ian Gill

Big Wall climber
Redding, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 24, 2012 - 09:10pm PT

If you would just quit climbing, Mark, I could get the record for oldest to solo when I come back!

Trad climber
Jun 24, 2012 - 09:13pm PT
Thanks for sharing Ian and I'm terribly sorry about your situation. Metastasized melanoma is a grave diagnosis indeed. I'm a Heme/Onc nurse and I spend far too much time thinking about (and far too many dreams about) how I would feel and what I would do if I was diagnosed in the manner that so many of my patients are. It seems like you and I have had the same idea because if I could pull off one more El Cap route that's definitely what I would be doing. It pains me to see that that dream is not a likely one for you. Please take care of yourself and find a new outlet for your "one more shot at" dream. I know we will all be watching to see what you come up with and eager to help if we are able.
Ian Gill

Big Wall climber
Redding, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 24, 2012 - 09:20pm PT

High Desert, your words make my resolve even stronger.

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jun 24, 2012 - 09:28pm PT

I'm sending love, caring and hope your way. Any please, no more of the talk about letting others down.


Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Jun 24, 2012 - 10:52pm PT
When you mentioned the leg swelling I kinda knew in my heart what it was and that it would put the brakes on your climb. I too know more than I care to know about cancer.

I've seen some very bad cases beaten. I can be done! When you do finally come back to the valley there is going to be one hell of a celebration .. I hope it will make the shindig that cheered on Alex and Hans pale in comparison.

Here is to bravery and balls and to someone..(you) who has tons of both!
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Jun 24, 2012 - 10:55pm PT
Here is to bravery and balls and to someone..(you) who has tons of both!

I know Ian only by phone, text and email but truer words could not be spoken of him!
Bad Climber

Jun 24, 2012 - 10:59pm PT
Ian, I hope we get to meet sometime in a place with clear skies, grand, clean stone, and fire in our hearts for life's adventures. Be well. Fight hard. We're thinking of you!

Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Jun 24, 2012 - 11:28pm PT
Ian, sorry to hear the news, and good luck with your journey.

Just a thought - let's say that you got to the point where you thought you had a decent chance at ZM, but were worried about what to do if you ran into problems. Maybe, just maybe, it could be arranged that there just happened to be an experienced and prepared team following you up the route, a pitch or two behind. There if needed, as it were. I don't know if one can get down from ZM without major shenanigans, but maybe something of the sort would work. You'd still be soloing, but also prepared.

Social climber
Jun 24, 2012 - 11:28pm PT
hey there say, ian...

i had not known of this... as to your other thread, or, if i did, i may have put it to shelf, thinking it was well and fine now, :(

say--when folks do their 'trail duties' of setting up things for life, and such, this is NOT letting folks down, when the trail 'suddenly changes'...
chin up, as to that...

next--we will be praying, and whatever ever else folks can do, for you to tackle this, and see some kind of a victory...
keep hanging in here and sharing, and getting support...

surprises can happen up trail, you never know...
there are treasures to find, whether new or different, in the midst of any new trail, even if it seems far to hard to tackle...

whether the big wall comes true or not, the main point is to get well first...

there will be new joys found in whatever climbs open, after that...
and--just sharing your life with others that have hurt, in these same situation, will bring new life to folks that you have never even seen, met, or heard of, yet...

god bless...

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Jun 24, 2012 - 11:29pm PT
Hi Ian:

Check out this website:

This man did lots of research on how you can help yourself stay alive.

Best Regards, and I hope you can make it up a bug wall some day.

Social climber
Portland, Oregon
Jun 24, 2012 - 11:30pm PT
Ian, Must have been hard to make that decision but seems the right call. My best wishes for your recovery and your subsequent send!
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