August 29, 2014
On June 18, I reached the summit of Mt. Shasta with the support of an incredible 2014 Climb Against the Odds team. One of the most memorable parts of the experience, besides the mountain herself, was the most incredible support shown by my family, friends, and the dedicated 2014 Climb team, Staff and Board of the Breast Cancer Fund, as well as the entire community of Mt. Shasta. It was one of the very best weeks of my life, as I reached my personal summit at the same time as I celebrated four years of survivorship after my diagnosis of Stage II breast cancer in 2010, at the age of 39. My mom was by my side the entire way during my 15 months of chemotherapy and surgeries. She was my co-survivor and my rock.
I am so grateful my mother, Linda, and father Robert, were both there to share this awesome experience with me. It was always my intention to come back after the climb to continue this important work and to finish my fundraising. Instead, life took a most unexpected turn, and now our lives will never be the same.
On August 27, just one week after her 67th birthday, exactly 10 weeks after my summit of Mt Shasta with the Breast Cancer Fund, an event for which she and my dad drove all the way from Ohio to California to be with me, my beautiful, caring, generous, courageous mother, Linda Melnick Zastko, lost a very short battle to Stage IV lung cancer. In fact, she passed just eight weeks and a couple of days after we had an actual diagnosis.
My mom was always there to support me, and during the near year-long preparation for the climb, she did so much for me, including meeting me at my home to grab my gear before leaving town, which she and my dad hauled all the way from Ohio to California. At the time, I knew something was wrong, and as we left the beauty of Mt. Shasta, still so full of joy from the events of the week of the Climb, I didn't even have time to blink...as things began to unravel. Our friends, our Breast Cancer Fund family really, immediately began to show their support. I knew from the beginning this was a great organization and I found out why: they are constantly taking action to make the world a better place for all of us, and to part of that work is to get us moving MORE and MORE toward PREVENTION.
Cancer is a disease that affects us all. It is insidious, ugly, currently has no surefire cures, and we are waging a pyrrhic war if we don't do more to PREVENT this disease, whatever it takes. We need a paradigm shift and I know that this organization of the most dedicated women and men I have ever met, is leading the way.
Mom proudly displayed the photos of our time at Mt. Shasta in her hospital room and would tell every nurse and doctor about the experience. I bragged to all of her nurses about the intricate survival bracelets she had made for the team. I am sad that she won't be here to help me make more, and that she never got the chance to show me how.
Mom was honored by the continued show of support as La Dawn Beardsley carried a prayer flag for her during this year's Sacred Trek with the Breast Cancer Fund, through the Georgia Caucuses. A special talisman, much like the one that was given to me to carry up the mountain during Climb Against the Odds, was sent to her by Jeanne Rizzo and Ellen Kahn, to remind us of the strength and fragility of life. She wore it from the day she so happily received it until the end of her life, at which time it was passed to my youngest sister. It has provided much comfort to us all, as has been the outpouring from all the staff and members of the team, too numerous to mention here. I asked my sister to let me borrow it whenever I climb more mountains, because I do have more mountains to climb.
We continue to receive calls and emails of support and kindness from our Breast Cancer Fund from all over the country.
Please do what you can to be a light in the world, as much as she was always my guiding light. She was so grateful for the support and the work of the Breast Cancer Fund. I will continue to carry on this work in her memory.
With deepest gratitude and a true heart, please know how very grateful my family has been for what you have already done. I will miss her so much. She showed us her strength, her courage, her love for us, and even her sense of humor, to the very end of this precious life.
In memory of a most generous woman, who climbed more mountains than we can ever imagine.
Linda Melnick Zastko
August 20, 1947 - August 27, 2014
"The wind carries our prayers of love, healing, and remembrance. May we all be well."
Thank you for your generous contributions and support to the Breast Cancer Fund.
Breast Cancer Survivor and 2014 Climb Against the Odds Team Member