I met the most amazing, young woman tonight.
She’s darling and petite, and a fire-ball – talking a mile a minute – and I don’t think she ever stops smiling. She’s hard not to love instantly. She’s the kind of person you’d want as a friend.
Her name is Brandi.
She is 29 years old. She has Parkinson’s – but it doesn’t have her.
Tonight was the “After the Climb” celebration, which is simply one girl’s effort to make a difference for many. The following excerpt is from Brandi’s personal blog. It was edited from its original version for length.
This is a true story about a girl and a goal.
My name is Brandi Roman. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease when I was 25 and this is my story about the journey to the top of my mountain.
It was late August 2009, and I was having a “Poor Me Day.” I spent most of the day alone and crying, thinking “Why me? How could this happen? How could ‘I’ have Parkinson’s disease?”
When I finally ventured out of bed, I went over to a friend’s house. They could tell I was down and tried to cheer me up by telling me stories about their most recent mountain climbing adventure. However, their plan backfired and made me even more upset and depressed.
Didn’t they understand, my life was over? I have PD, people with PD don’t climb mountains. They shake too much!
Then it happened.
My friend looked at me and said, “You should climb a mountain. You could prove to people that you can overcome your weaknesses. You don’t have to go around mountains. You can hit them “head-on” and go straight up!”
I’m not sure why that made any sense to me, but it did. It inspired me.
I had a goal.
I had something to prove to everyone.
I had something to prove to myself.
I researched mountains. I chose Granite Peak – the highest mountain in Montana. I told myself, “If I am going to do this, I am going to make a point in doing it.”
Over the next year, I focused on getting into good physical shape. I worked out daily. I learned to ski. I learned to climb and rappel. I started a non-profit organization called “Summit 4 Parkinson’s.”
By May 2010, I had a team and a plan. I found new strength within myself and I lived by the motto, “I have Parkinson’s – Parkinson’s does NOT have me.”
On August 12, 2010, we began the journey to the top of Granite Peak. I felt amazingly good and strong. I had a team I believed in and who believed in me. Their motto was, “If Brandi can – WE can.”
As I hiked, I felt my willpower grow and my drive to succeed overpower me. I was on a mission. I wasn’t just climbing for myself anymore, but for EVERYONE touched by PD.
For 24 hours, we got rained on, snowed on, endured “Switchbacks from Hell” – a hike that rises in elevation from 7,637 feet to10,000 feet in less than three miles, dealt with high winds, cold, and fog on “Froze to Death Plateau” – and began to wonder if we would ever reach the summit, as the weather had completely immobilized us – preventing us from moving on.
When we opened our tents the next morning we saw stars – tons of beautiful twinkling stars, and shooting stars all around us – a good omen. We made wishes on the stars and were led in a prayer, then we set out on the last stretch of our journey, over miles of boulders and rocky terrain to our destination – the top of Granite Peak.
We scrambled across boulder fields for hours until, finally we reached the end of Froze to Death Plateau and in the distance spotted Granite Peak for the first time. I felt my eyes swell with tears as I peered at my rocky nemesis.
My senses heightened as I began the climb upward, into the ever expanding sky towards the top of this awesome mountain. Because of time constraints, and with my trust in my team, I free-climbed all but two pitches on the way to the top – a pretty amazing feat for someone with PD, although I was brutally brought back to reality when I kicked a rock loose. I was on top, so my concern was for the people below – my best friend and her husband, Kami and Garret. I was hysterical, whimpering and crying, for the next five seconds, which seemed like forever.
And then I heard Kami’s voice from below, “Rock!” They were warning the people below them. I sobbed a sigh of relief. As the reality of what just happened set in, I clung to the rock wondering if it had defeated me. I asked myself, “should I go on, was it worth it, what if another rock slipped loose, what if someone got hurt?”
I was consumed by fear and doubt. I felt as though I stood in one corner of a boxing ring – a small 5′ 1″ girl weighing 110 pounds versus “The Hulk,” but I had a secret weapon. I was being cheered by the millions with Parkinson’s Disease.
Yet, with every step, my determination became greater.
When I finally took my place on the rock platform of Granite Peak, I was overcome by emotions. I cried. I thought about the strength and endurance it had taken to get there – the top of Montana. I thought about my great grandmother who died in March. She was the first person I had known with PD. I thought of my PD support group, many of whom had signed my helmet, which I wore on this trip.
As I have said from the start, this climb was for everyone living and caring for people with Parkinson’s disease. This was the proudest moment of my life.
This was for the millions of people with PD. I hope I made you proud.
I was very honored to meet Brandi tonight, and share in the glory with her success. The following photos were taken in Bozeman at Bogert Park in honor of Brandi Roman and her fight against Parkinson’s Disease.
Thank you to 10 Foot Tall and 80 Proof for serenading us!
For more details, please visit Brandi’s website Summit4Parkisons