Climbing for Cancer
My name is Stuart Manifold, and I am a member of the EO Perth chapter. I find myself compelled to write about a close friend and business associate who recently faced the biggest challenge of his life. He experienced an unbelievable hardship, and he faced it with compassion, humility and a drive of which any entrepreneur would be envious.
I am sitting here at my computer, writing with a tear in my eye and a heavy heart, wondering about the many injustices of life and how to make sense of them all. Here is how I got to this point:
I first met Rick Parish 14 years ago, when I tracked him down and asked for a job in his company. Rick was larger than life, a retired SAS (Special Forces) soldier with an ambitious plan to provide mobile HSE training to the hydrocarbons industry. For some reason, he hired me, and my career in his industry began. Years later, I left and started my own business, which Rick’s company later purchased. Things had come full circle! More important than the commercial success was the friendship I had established with Rick. Even though we had our disagreements, I felt that we would always be close.
In September 2009, I called Rick to catch up. The conversation, as I recall, went something like this: “Hi mate, how’s it going?” After a long silence, the response was simple and altogether life-changing. “Not so good, mate,” he responded. “Elliot (his two-and-a-half-year-old son) has just been diagnosed with a brain tumour. It was removed on Saturday night, and now we just have to wait and see.” In the weeks following, Elliot began his treatment, and Rick decided that he needed to do something.
After a discussion with the hospital staff about what what was required to support Elliot’s medical needs, Rick decided that he would purchase a 3D molecular imaging machine. He leaned on his closest friends for help, though I believe he would have achieved this alone if he had to. Like all entrepreneurs, Rick needed to be useful and fix the problem. The machine he needed is used to understand the way childhood brain tumours grow and develop. The cost of this magic equipment is $650, 000. Rick decided that $1 million was a better target.
As I type this article, the machine has been ordered, paid for and will arrive in Perth in two weeks. The current tally sits at $850, 000, with a goal of reaching $1 million by Christmas. This amazing result was achieved through the establishment of a local group called the “Adventurers.” The group consisted of adventurous people, all of whom decided to climb France’s Mont Blanc to raise the funds required. Twenty climbers signed on, and in late September, they headed to France to summit the mountain in “A Climb for Childhood Cancer.”
All of the climbers paid their own way, and every cent earned went to the cause. Unfortunately, due to weather conditions, they were forced to turn back, 300 meters short of the top. I am told that they will attempt the climb again in 2011. When Rick returned from France, he called me. Elliot had had a scan after all of his treatments, and thankfully, there was no sign of the disease! We all allowed ourselves to get excited. Sadly, a follow-up scan a couple of weeks ago showed that this insidious disease had returned. Rick and his family can now only hope and pray for a miracle, as medical science is out of options. Nothing any of us do can fix this great injustice.
Last night, I had the privilege of talking with a leading researcher about childhood cancer. His passion was invigorating, and he is extremely excited about the arrival of Elliot’s new machine; all is underway to begin some exciting research. As the conversation carried on, though, I found myself getting angry. Brian tumours of this nature are the second most common cancer affecting children the world over. Of particular concern is the less-than-50-percent survival rate for children with high-risk medulloblastoma. On top of this, children with brain tumours face the possibility of brain damage and disability associated with surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
As the conversation progressed, I learned that several drug companies do not engage in childhood cancer researce because there are not enough occurrences. Apparently, the development of drugs for lung cancer, breast cancer and other more common diseases are more profitable. The researcher went on to say that he had been negotiating with one of the larger pharmaceutical companies to release the details and research on a particular enzyme that had shown encouraging results in lung cancer cells. After months, reams of paperwork and lots of begging, this enzyme will be the first research completed using the imaging technology that Rick has purchased.
Since this discussion, I’ve talked with Rick, and he is very interested in establishing chapters of “Adventurers” all over the world; not to support a single hospital or researcher, but to embrace the Mont Blanc 2010 mantra of “Life is a Gift.” The goal is to have groups of people apply their adventurous spirit toward finding a cure for the cancers that, all too often, try to kill children and destroy the families surrounding them.
Collectively, the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) is made up of successful, risk-taking, dynamic business owners. But we are also husbands, wives, parents, sons and daughters. We grow business, win contracts, employ staff and deal with stress. We do bold and cool stuff every day … would there be anything cooler than helping to find a cure for childhood cancer? Perhaps by embracing all of these talents, we could also make an amazing difference in the world in which we operate. Perhaps we could make it a better place.
If anyone is interested in assisting in this adventure, feel free to