CRANBERRY TWP — Deana Dietzler Chiusano is doing something most people, let alone someone with cancer, will never get to do.
Dietzler Chiusano, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma six years ago, will climb Japan's Mount Fuji with her sister, Deborah Dietzler, in July to raise money for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
It was Deborah's idea to scale the highest point in Japan through a program called Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma.
Supported by the foundation, CURE Media group and Takeda Oncology, Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma takes patients and their caregivers to climb mountains all over the world to show how advances in medicine allow multiple myeloma patients to live longer and have a higher quality of life than ever before.
“When she said it, I thought she was crazy,” said Dietzler Chiusano, of Cranberry Township. “But I was like, if this is what we're going to do, this is what we're going to do.”
Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer that develops in bone marrow. It's the third most common blood cancer in the U.S. behind lymphoma and leukemia.
Dietzler Chiusano thought she was getting colds frequently in the spring of 2011 from her children who were 1, 7 and 11 at the time.
“I was sick, had fatigue, then I got shortness of breath. I thought I had pneumonia,” she said.
Finally she felt so bad she went to the ER where she was finally diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
“I was diagnosed on my son's second birthday,” Dietzler Chiusano said. “Then a week later I turned 39.”
Dietzler Chiusano began treatments and had a stem cell transplant in November 2011 that put her cancer in remission for 20 months before it came back. After traditional medicines stopped working, her sister found a clinical trial at Emory University in Atlanta that Deana qualified for.
“I have been on this clinical trial for almost three years, and I have had a complete response to it,” Dietzler Chiusano said. “I'm below normal. Everything is wonderful.”
While her sister was battling for her health, Dietzler, who lives in Athens, Ga., threw herself into learning everything she could about the cancer and how best to deal with it “because in my mind there was no option but to fight with everything we had,” Dietzler said.
That's how she found the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, a nonprofit focused on research and developing new treatments for the disease.
Dietzler, who had run half-marathons before, jumped into even longer endurance events to raise money and awareness for the foundation.
When Dietzler heard about Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma, she signed them both up, without telling her sister first.
Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan at 12,388 feet and located about 60 miles southwest of Tokyo. The sisters will be on the mountain from July 18 to 20.
Climbers will hike about six hours on the first day until they reach small huts where they'll rest. They'll wake up again around 1 a.m. to begin their trek to the summit, reaching it at the time the sun rises.
Although she admittedly hasn't been training as much as she should, Dietzler Chiusano said she takes heart in the fact that she was not the last one to the top during a training hike in New Hampshire a few weeks ago.
“I try to think about all the people who can't do it and stop complaining and just do it,” Dietzler Chiusano said.
No matter what happens, Dietzler said she anticipates having a great experience with her younger sister.
“I always love spending time with my sister,” she said. “We have a lot of fun together. I'm sure whatever parts of it are challenging, we'll find ways to inject humor into it.”
To donate to the sisters' efforts, visit https://endurance.themmrf.org/2017Fuji/teambthomm.