Woodinville man is Big Climb honoree

  • Written by Deborah Stone
This year's Big Climb honoree is 21-year-old Curran Parker of Woodinville. Courtesy photo.
The Big Climb is a favorite Seattle event and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s WA/AK Chapter’s largest fundraiser.

In 2011, 6,000 people climbed the stairs at the Columbia Center, the state’s tallest skyscraper, and raised $1.6 million.

The 69-flight course has 1,311 steps, 19 steps per flights, and 788 feet of vertical elevation.

This popular area event encourages participants to be active, while applying their efforts to a greater cause. Not only do entrants get a challenging workout, but they also get the opportunity to support a worthwhile organization.

All funds raised through the Big Climb go towards the society’s mission to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and to improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

Since its inception in 1949, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has invested more than $750 million in research, which has helped contribute to the remarkable progress made in treating individuals with these diseases.

Survival rates for blood cancers have doubled or tripled and in some cases quadrupled over the years.

Unfortunately, there are still more than one million North Americans battling such cancers and the rate of diagnosis is every four minutes.

2012 marks the 26th year for the Big Climb.

The event will be held on March 25 and this year’s honoree is 21-year-old Curran Parker of Woodinville.

“We met Curran in 2011 through his team Climbing for Curry, which raised a whopping $16,000,” says Anne Christine Cochran, senior campaign manager for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s WA/AK Chapter.

“He is an inspiring individual with an amazing story of strength, courage, hope and survival.”

Parker, a 2008 Bothell High grad and current Cascadia Community College student, was working at the Melting Pot in May 2010 when he discovered a lump on his neck.

He underwent a biopsy and a scan and then came the bad news.

“I was told I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma,” says Parker. “I couldn’t believe it! I was shocked. I had been in perfect health and it seemed so surreal that I would have cancer. I was 20 years old. How could I have cancer?”

Though he was upset, Parker felt better once he learned that the disease was 90 percent treatable the first time around.

He felt confident he would be OK.

But, after four months of chemo, the lump came back and he had to embark on another cycle of chemo that was more potent than the first, with harsher side effects.

“I lost my hair and dropped 10 pounds,” he explains, “and I felt nauseous most of the time. Unfortunately, the cancer still didn’t go away. And now I had only a 20 percent chance.”

Parker was sent to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance where he subsequently underwent another treatment protocol followed by a stem cell transplant.

Because the procedure wasn’t entirely successful, he was then given a form of chemo that he describes as the most intense of all treatments.

“It was really, really harsh,” comments Parker. “I lost 25 pounds and had to stay in the hospital for 12 days. I had no strength and could barely walk.”

Thirty days after the treatment and a second stem cell transplant, the words “cancer free” were finally uttered.

“It was so great to hear the news,” says Parker. “I felt like I had been through a war, a battle, and had come out victorious.”

Though there were times when the young man felt depressed and discouraged during his ordeal, he pushed himself to keep going, finding an inner strength to make it through one step at a time.

Initially, he was angry and questioned why such a bad thing was happening to him at this time in his life.

Anger eventually gave way to determination and an unwavering attitude of optimism and hope.

“The key for me was to be positive and to have faith that I was going to make it,” explains Parker. “I was lucky to have my family, friends and church support me. They stayed strong for me and gave me encouragement.”

Parker feels privileged to be the Big Climb’s honoree and expresses his appreciation for the opportunity to instill hope in others who are fighting blood cancers.

He adds, “I am a living example that faith and a positive attitude, combined with the right treatment, can make all the difference. It’s so important that the research continues to find better treatments and cures. And the only way that’s going to happen is with funding.”

As the honoree, Parker is giving speeches at various events, telling his story, and urging others to help support the mission of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

“This is a cause I will be involved with for the rest of my life,” he notes. “And I will do everything I can to be a source of inspiration to others.”

Though there is a risk that the cancer will return in the future, Parker refuses to live under a shadow.

“That’s not me,” he says. “I have too much I want to do in my life and I plan to live it to its fullest. I don’t want to spend my time worrying about something that may or may not happen.”

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