VF in the News

Cindy’s Story

Racing for Life

My name is Cindy. Dog sled racing may be an individual sport but I run a team of dogs that I am responsible for in every way. Their health and safety are my top priority and I have an obligation to protect them, even if it means I must withdraw from a race.

For the love of the sport, or is it the dogs!?! This sport is addicting. Traveling across the harsh, yet beautiful Alaskan wilderness is amazing: the scenery, the Northern Lights, and Harvest Moon, and the dogs are incredible. It is difficult to explain the bond I developed with my dogs: they powered my sled and I fueled them with love, hugs, and kisses.

I was in Alaska training over the summer and am now back teaching the fall semester at California State University Fullerton. I will go back to Alaska during school breaks; and, weather-permitting, complete my last two qualifying races by mid-January. Then I can turn in my application to run in the 2013, 1,150-mile Iditarod Dog Sled Race, which starts on March 2. My racing motto/logo is VASCULITIS: Racing for Life.

Click here to visit Cindy’s website and read her blog to follow her activities.

Cindy Summits Mt. Everest, May 2010

On May 23, 2010, after 18½ hours of nonstop climbing, Cindy Abbott made the round trip from the final camp to the summit of Mt. Everest at more than 29,000 feet.

“It was just the most amazing feeling,” said Cindy in a satellite phone call after reaching the peak. “You look out and know that you’re on top of the world.” Cindy, 51, is one of fewer than 45 U.S. women to successfully summit the peak.

Cindy, a health science lecturer at Cal State Fullerton, was diagnosed with Wegener’s granulomatosis in August 2007 after losing vision in her left eye. “The blindness was a good thing in a way because I was finally diagnosed,” said Abbott, who lives in Orange County, Calif. “It led my doctors, who had been seeing me for years and not knowing what was wrong with me to a diagnosis.” Abbott suffered joint problems, mini strokes and vertigo, and her voice has changed as the disease alters her throat tissue.

She began the climb on April 1 and throughout her training, raised awareness of Wegener’s, vasculitis and rare diseases through her personal blog and numerous TV, radio, newspaper and online interviews. When asked about making the climb, Cindy said, “It’s me showing myself it isn’t what controls me,” said Abbott. “I’m responsible about my treatment. But if I want to climb a mountain or go scuba diving in Iceland, it’s not going to dictate whether I do or not, at this point.”

Editor’s note: Cindy’s book, which she wrote about climbing Mt. Everest is available now in paperback. Click here to purchase the book.

Photo credit:Jan DeNapoli

Published: September 2011

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