Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro has been in Aimable Turabumukiza’s “basket of dreams” since he first saw “this most beautiful mountain” after fleeing the Rwandan genocide as a badly injured teenager in 1994.
But instead of climbing Africa’s highest peak as part of a vacation, the Edmonton-based owner of a trucking company will join Ovarian Cancer Canada’s Expedition of Hope in September in honour of overcoming ovarian cancer – a cause he has adopted for the many women in his life.
Aimable, 36, has six sisters, three sisters-in-law, a wife and two daughters. “As a man, what should I do to protect the women I love? I can’t protect them from ovarian cancer but I can help them to be aware. The gift I can give to the women in my life is to show them that I care and look out for their best interest by climbing the tallest mountain in Africa, having fun on their behalf and promoting the cause.”
Aimable, who came to Canada in 2006, had never heard of ovarian cancer until a woman who worked with a company in the Yukon that dealt with his trucking firm was diagnosed with stage IV disease and then died.
“I couldn’t shake it from my mind,” says Aimable. He asked his wife Aline about the disease and he asked other women but no one seemed to know much about it. After doing some research, he found the Ovarian Cancer Canada website. He read about the disease and the Expedition of Hope led by Macon Dunnagan, who lost his wife to ovarian cancer. Aline challenged Aimable to do the climb and he accepted.
“I decided to dedicate 2013 and beyond to talking about ovarian cancer here in Canada. We have adopted Ovarian Cancer Canada as our charity of choice. We need more voices so that’s how my heart was drawn to the cause of ovarian cancer. We will promote it through our business and push it to the maximum.”
Aimable’s involvement in ovarian cancer is very special to him, even though he doesn’t have anyone with this disease who is directly related.
“I’ve been through the most horrific events of human life during Rwandan genocide and many years afterward. I was beaten and nearly died. And we lost so many people. Was I going to be bitter, look for revenge and cry about how I was victimized or instead find a cause and put my heart into it?”
For years, Aimable worked to promote awareness of prostate cancer and leukemia, as he knew many people affected by these diseases. But ovarian cancer and the Expedition of Hope have captured his interest because he has so many women in his life and more women need to know about the disease.
He is particularly passionate to get the awareness message out to new immigrants.
“Our country is the most diverse in the world. Many people come here looking for a better life yet clinging to their traditions and not paying attention to what is going on with their bodies because of the many instant changes they experience while settling in their new country. By embracing the medical system, you will be doing a service to your family. You will be less of a burden on the system and your family, and you will enjoy your new country much more.”
Aimable now considers himself “a student of ovarian cancer” and shares information about the disease daily on his Facebook page, on Twitter and soon he plans to begin a blog.
Aimable and Aline are just beginning to fundraise for his Kilimanjaro climb. They will be approaching business contacts, Facebook followers, family and friends for their support. They will be speaking to members of their church and are also planning a series of fundraising events including a car wash and barbecue.
Aline has taken on the task of getting Aimable in shape for the climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. Training began in January with a workout routine and weight lifting.
“My wife is 100% behind me. She is the most loving and supportive person,” says Aimable.
“He’s a strong-minded guy,” laughs Aline, “so if I tell him to do something, we have to fight first before he can do it my way!”
But beyond the joking, Aline is profoundly touched by her husband’s resolve to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with Ovarian Cancer Canada’s Expedition of Hope team. “The fact that it’s something for women and he’s really burning for it, I find it’s honourable,” she says.