Metro Detroit cancer patient and his doctor to climb Mount Everest

Posted: 4:58 PM, Feb 22, 2018
Updated: 2018-02-22 16:58:16-05

A cancer patient and his doctor are planning to climb Mount Everest next week. The effort is symbolic of how far they've come.

Their goal is raise money, awareness and hope.

John Raithel said,"Cancer steals hope. It can steal your hope, it wins."

After turning 50, Raithel's wife, Linda, urged him to go to the doctor's for a checkup. The now 58-year-old has always been a healthy and athletic man. He is an avid runner and hiker.

Raithel went for a physical seven years ago and was shocked to learn he has multiple myeloma.

"I had no idea what it was," he said. "The 'C' word cancer was entered into my life. There had to be a mistake, I feel great."

Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer. He began treatment at the Karmanos Cancer Institute under the care of Dr. Jeffrey Zonder.

When chemotherapy and other treatments didn't work, John made the decision to try a bone marrow transplant, which led to some complications.

The couple celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary while John was recovering.

"I was in ICU looking up at her (Linda) and I didn't have an anniversary present for her and she just said, 'stay alive for me.'"

That's exactly what he did.

John never lost hope, hope to walk his daughters down the aisle and hope to hold his grandchildren. He also hoped to be active again.

That's when Dr. Zonder, who is also an avid hiker, asked if he would climb Mt. Everest to raise money and awareness for multiple myeloma. They've signed up with Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma.

Dr. Zonder chuckled, "Well, I was waiting for the right moment."

While John is not in remission yet, Dr. Zonder says he is in great shape to hike less than 20,000 feet. 

"I think John will be dragging me up the trail not vice versa. I think we are going to help each other out with this hike, he said.

Their goal was to raise $150,000 but they've doubled that.  That money will fund research therapy in hopes of finding a cure.

Dr. Zonder explained, "We are inching closer, we're getting more patients into remission than ever before."

John and Dr. Zonder have been training together and hiking the mountain next week. John said he's doing it for all the patients who are going through what he knows is difficult journey.

"We need to start providing hope. We need to do things for other people to show that hope."