This week, our Shake It Up hero is Suzanne Cox, a regular Shake It Up fundraiser who this year completed the Everest Base Camp Trek in memory of her father – the latest in her annual #RunForRog fundraising efforts. In the past, Suze has run a 45km trail in the Blue Mountains, as well as a challenge to run 130km in 14 days – raising more than $27,000 for Shake It Up and essential Parkinson’s research in total.
We spoke with Suzanne about her inspiring Everest adventure, her commitment to fundraising for Parkinson’s research and her family’s experience with Parkinson’s disease.
Hi Suze, can you tell us what first inspired your trek to Mt Everest Base Camp?
My Dad, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, completed the Everest Base Camp Trek 50 years ago and I was able to complete it 50 years later almost to the day! I had found his diary he had kept during the trek and he had written a detailed account of his journey. We followed a very similar journey so I was able to follow along with the path he had taken and felt like I was following in his footsteps. I had been thinking about doing it for a while, and then my brother gave me the flights to Nepal for my 40th birthday so there was no turning back!
What was your training like in the lead up to the trek?
Nothing can really prepare you for the harsh reality of trekking at very high altitudes but I did train in an altitude gym for 2 months in the lead up to the trek. I also did some long practice treks with my backpack packed with canned foods to get used to trekking with a heavy backpack as well as some running.
Can you share some of the biggest highlights and hurdles throughout your adventure?
Definitely the biggest hurdle was the lack of oxygen! Sometimes just rolling over in bed at night would cause you to be out of breath and trekking the hills was challenging especially at the really high altitudes. It was really a matter of just getting used to being out of breath most of the time! The logistics of a trip like this are also challenging – like not having showers, heating, clean water to drink and wearing the same clothes each day. It was a big adjustment not to have all the usual luxuries we get everyday.
The highlights far outweigh the challenges. Reaching Basecamp was emotional and empowering all in one and climbing another huge mountain that was a higher altitude then Basecamp called Kala Patthar was phenomenal, with 360 degree views of all the Himalayan mountains around you. Every day of trekking was amazing with stunning views from the moment you woke up. Meeting so many great like minded people was great as well and the celebrations at the Irish bar after we finished were also lots of fun!
Why did you choose to raise funds for Shake It Up Australia?
I choose to fundraise yearly for the Shake It Up Australia Foundation in honour of my Dad and because I know that all the money I raise goes directly towards research, so that hopefully one day no one will have to go through what my Dad and our family went through.
What do you wish more people understood about Parkinson’s disease?
I don’t think that any of us who haven’t had Parkinson’s Disease will ever really understand just how hard it is to live with this condition. I hope that my fundraising creates awareness of just how prevalent it is, how much it is increasing each year and what some of the early symptoms are, so that treatment can be managed earlier.
What is your advice for someone else wanting to make a difference for Parkinson’s?
Your challenge doesn’t have to be as intense as Everest Basecamp! I started off with much smaller challenges and honestly I think people would donate and support me no matter what level of challenge I did. The challenge is not the important part and people want to help make a difference. While it’s great that I have been able to raise lots of funds to go towards research, any challenge creates awareness and that is very important.
You can support Suzanne’s fundraising efforts here, or hear more from Suze in the video below.