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Mount Aconcagua (REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado)
Mount Aconcagua (REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado)


Why a mother with Stage 4 lung cancer climbed mount Aconcagua

By WITW Staff on May 23, 2019

After Isabella de la Houssaye was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in 2018, she decided to embark on outdoor adventures with each of her five children: hiking a medieval pilgrimage route through Spain, running marathons in Alaska and Kazakhstan, completing an Ironman in South Korea. The New York Times followed her as she made a grueling trek up Argentina’s mount Aconcagua with her 22-year-old daughter, Bella. De la Houssaye said she hoped to teach Bella about “joy and suffering alike.”

Before her diagnosis, the 55-year-old mother was an ardent mountain climber, marathon runner, and athlete who imparted her love for athleticism and the outdoors to her children. But cancer treatments have weakened her severely; she now weighs less than 100 pounds, has brittle bones from chemotherapy, and struggles with nausea.

And mount Aconcagua is by no means an easy climb for even the healthiest athletes. Over the course of two weeks, those who undertake the mission must endure freezing temperatures, frigid winds, and altitudes so high, it becomes difficult to breathe. Only 40 percent of climbers make it to the top, according to the Times.

Both de la Houssaye and Bella struggled throughout the journey, worn down by exhaustion and the harsh environment. The altitude made de la Houssaye vomit and, on one morning, she refused to leave her tent. Bella, too, had breakdowns brought on by exhaustion. But mother and daughter ultimately made it to the top of the mountain.

“It was so important to me that Bella and I have this experience together,” she told the Times. “I really wanted her to see that when things get hard, you can find a place inside yourself to keep going.”

Read the full story at the New York Times.


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