My million-dollar mission


Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds to fight brain cancer. 

By Nathan Cheong, BioCeuticals and IsoWhey Managing Director.

In July 2016, I climbed and conquered Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. It was one of the most challenging yet rewarding tests of my endurance, and an experience I will never forget.

I have completed ultra-marathons – including the 250km Big Red Run across the Simpson Desert – but nothing quite like this. And nothing quite prepares you for the challenge, no matter how much mental and physical training you do to prepare for reaching the summit. 

I was honoured to be invited by Blackmores CEO Christine Holgate to join her and a group of executives on the climb, as part of a million-dollar mission to raise funds for Professor Charlie Teo’s Cure Brain Cancer Foundation. In my time at BioCeuticals I have built a close relationship with Professor Teo and have come to know some of the stories of his patients and the work that he does – both of which are incredibly inspirational and powerful.

Brain cancer is, out of any cancer, the biggest killer of our children in terms of disease and yet receives virtually no government funding. I have had the unfortunate experience of losing someone to brain cancer and, for these reasons, I wanted to dedicate my climb and fundraising efforts to the families, care-givers and researchers of those impacted by brain cancer.

Mount Kilimanjaro rises 4,900m from its base on the plains of Tanzania to 5,895m above sea level – a height that to reach requires significant training. In preparation for the climb, I spent hours undergoing cardio training with Altitude Australia at Brookvale in Sydney, in a room that simulates the effects of altitude at around 3,800m, where oxygen levels are at only 50 per cent of what one is used to breathing at sea level.

In addition, I completed intensive weight, cross-fit and other high-intensity interval training in order to maximise my muscle strength and condition.

As prepared as I was, on day two of our climb at 3,000m, I developed altitude sickness with severe headaches, vomiting and nausea. I wasn’t eating, I was throwing up frequently and, as a result, had hardly any energy to tap into. I was severely dehydrated and fatigued, with an oxygen reading of high 60s and a resting heart rate of 110.

Despite this, I was determined to finish the climb – against the advice of some of the group – and push on. I’m very glad that I did. There were times (especially after getting sick at just day two) where I felt I couldn’t go on, didn’t want to go on. I would remind myself why I was doing the climb – how important it was – and the difference I was making. I was fortunate to have strong support from Ms Holgate, as well as from Steve Kastrinakis from Advantage Pharmacy Group and Donna Jackson, owner of OzSale.

Doing something for someone else is so rewarding – when perspective is put in place and suddenly other challenges or issues seem easier to overcome, when your own troubles fade. Doing something for the greater good is a most humbling experience, and something I encourage all BioCeuticals and IsoWhey staff to act on. It humanises us and recalibrates the way we relate to situations, to people, to business.

At BioCeuticals and IsoWhey we reward our staff with an extra day’s leave – Be Your Best Day – on which we encourage them to achieve something worthy, for the greater good. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro together, our group raised $1.7 million. I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished – and grateful that I was able to be my best in the name of Cure Brain Cancer Foundation.

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