At 9.30am on the 20th day of May 2011, Sharon and Allan Cohrs reached the summit of Mt Everest. In doing so, Sharon became the 1st Breast Cancer survivor in the world to achieve this, and together they became the 1st Australian couple.
Sharon is an ordinary yet inspirational Australian who showed incredible strength and determination to go on and do something truly extraordinary. Together, Sharon and Allan worked hard, combining strength, discipline and support of one another, to go on to reach the roof of the world.
Sharon and Allan now travel throughout Australia delivering inspirational, moving presentations to organisations and schools, sharing their personal struggles, from overcoming adversity, to believing in yourself, highlighting the importance of teamwork and leadership to succeed.
Sharon’s Cancer Journey
In December 2007, as avid mountaineers, my husband and I were preparing to embark on our next adventure to climb the highest mountain in South America, Mt Aconcagua (6959m). That was until I discovered a pea size lump in my left breast. After a mammogram, ultrasound and needle biopsy, I had a nervous 2-day wait until I received the dreaded news, “You have breast cancer”. My world was turned upside down in an instant. Instead of embarking on an amazing adventure, I was about to enter the frightening world of surgery and chemotherapy treatment.
The next months were extremely tough. I was tossed into this unknown world of surgery and oncology visits. I had both breasts and lymph nodes removed and then started the dreaded chemotherapy. I took on my treatment like a climb, taking one small step at a time. Even when I felt weak and sick, I would force myself to keep moving, stay positive, determined that I was going to beat this horrible disease.
Throughout my treatment, I dreamed of being in the mountains, relishing the peace and simplicity. I thought about how lucky I was to have a caring husband, great friends and a loving family.
It is so easy to overlook or take for granted the good things we have in our life, and I was given a second chance, an opportunity to treat life as the precious gift it is.
Mountaineering was such an important part of my life before cancer, and it was a passion I was determined to re-ignite. I had posters of my favorite mountains plastered throughout the house whilst I was going through chemotherapy, giving me the drive and inspiration to get back to climbing.
Since being told I was in remission in 2009, Allan and I trained hard and made a lot of sacrifices. Along with the intense training, I set myself a challenging schedule, climbing four mountains in the lead up to Mt Everest, including Mt Baruntse (7129m), Mera Peak (6424m), Ama Dablam (6812m) and Cho Oyu (8200m), in less than 2 years.
It is incredible how far you can go when you focus and put your mind toward something. As I got stronger, both physically and mentally, and each time I returned to the Himalaya’s, climbing a more technical and difficult mountain, I developed confidence and an inner-belief, knowing that if I put my mind and energy towards something, that anything was possible, even standing on top of the world.
For each of us, life has a different meaning or purpose, filled with our own individual aspirations and goals. For some, being successful in business or staying fit and healthy is their major driving force, whilst for others, fulfilling a life-long goal; travelling or spending time with loved ones is what makes life special.
You never know what curve balls life is going to throw at you, and it is how you deal with them that define who you are. I am a stronger person since going through cancer, but have not changed who I am. I still love having a great time with my friends and family, and have learned to cherish those special moments. I have a great sense of optimism and joy for life, and I believe in living life.
Together with Allan, we now focus our time on sharing the journey, from the lowest times to the finest moments with people around Australia, providing motivation and inspiration whilst sharing our experience that with a positive mind and attitude, we can all go on to achieve wonderful things.
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined - Henry David Thoreau