Bolingbrook woman scaling new heights to raise awareness of breast cancer

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Like many people, Bolingbrook resident Nancy Klimah has been personally touched by the ravages of breast cancer.


She has survivors in the family, and the 57-year-old hairdresser has through the years helped make women stricken with cancer deal with the hair loss that comes with chemotherapy.


“I’ve shaved the heads of more women than I’d like to count,” she said. “We start short, some opt to shave it all. I always tell them, you worry about your health, I’ll worry about your hair.”


But Klimah said she wanted to do more to help those struggling with breast cancer, and this week she is takingthat next step.


Thousands of steps, actually.


On Wednesday, Klimah will take her first steps to climb California’s Mount Shasta, a 14,179-foot behemoth, all in the name of raising funds for the Breast Cancer Fund.


“With a name like Klimah, you’ve got to climb the mountain,” she said recently.


Her online fundraising site for the climb at originally had a fundraising goal of $6,000.


But supporters have come out of the woodwork and Klimah had raised nearly $13,000 as of Monday.


“I’m one of the lucky ones,” Klimah said. “I’m so far cancer-free. It was time for me to do something while I’m healthy and ready.”


Klimah said she has partaken in marathons and triathlons before, and enjoyed the physical rigors involved in getting ready to summit the mountain this week with 35 other men and women.


“I wanted to do something not for me,” she said. “I wanted to train hard for somebody else.”


Klimah said she came across the fundraiser last August and began training in January.


She said she is one of the oldest participants and that she’s proud to climb with younger women, some of whom are cancer survivors themselves.


Illinois is decidedly non-mountainous, and the mother of two said she has gained new supporters when passersby have seen her training in her backpack and hiking suit.


Otherwise, Klimah said training took place at the Four Lakes ski area in Lisle, Swallow Cliff in Palos Park and any set of stairs she could scale repeatedly with weights on her back.


“I am not scared,” she said recently. “I was nervous, perhaps two months ago. But my promise to myself was to show up as strong as I can at 57.”


The entire climb will take between 12 and 16 hours, she said, with the crew heading out in four-person teams.


“Weather doesn’t matter, because we’re going to do it anyway,” Klimah said.


The whole process, from raising the funds to fight breast cancer and getting ready to go up and down a mountain, has been profound for Klimah.


“It’s humbling and it has truly changed me,” she said. “And I can’t imagine what’s going to happen when, god willing, I summit.”


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