Verna Tyree didn’t realize she had a Climb for a Cure connection when signing up. As someone who stays active, Verna learned about the Climb when she read about it on one of her [solidcore] coach’s Facebook page.

This particular coach, Erin Darbouze, MPH, is also Health Policy Manager at Fight Colorectal Cancer. Erin led the Etlan, Virginia, Old Rag Mountain Climb for a Cure on August 6, 2022.

When Verna signed up for this Climb, she said she didn’t really know what to expect, but having taken more than 1,100 [solidcore] classes, the 57 year old felt ready to try something new and different.

Although Verna said she’s slowed down over time, and she’s had health issues and injuries, she wants to be more active.

So when she saw Erin’s post about the Old Rag Climb for a Cure, Verna reached out to her, signed up to join her team, and then Verna did some fundraising.

Despite living approximately 100 miles away from the Old Rag Climb, Verna made the drive alone and met up with Erin and the Climb team at 8:30am on Saturday, August 6, 2022, to begin her first Climb for a Cure.

Climb for a Cure Connection

While Verna didn’t realize she had a connection to colorectal cancer and the Climb, in early 2020 she had a gastrointestinal bleed. Verna was hospitalized three times in nine days. During a colonoscopy, the doctor found and removed a small mass. 

Now Verna realizes the importance of getting a colonoscopy for early detection. She said it’s crucial to have timely screenings rather than waiting for signs and symptoms before having them done. She anticipates having another colonoscopy done before she turns 60. 

A Scenic Climb and Then Some

Verna didn’t have any expectations of what the Old Rag Climb would be like. She thought it would be scenic and a pleasant hike. “I didn’t think it would be easy, but I was not as prepared as I should have been,” she said.

At 8:30am, Verna started climbing with the group. Relatively quickly into the Climb, she realized she couldn’t keep up. But she didn’t want to hold up the team. 

Verna told them to go ahead without her and that she would be fine.

Hesitantly, but because Verna was persuasive, they gave her a radio to keep in contact, which made everyone feel more at ease with Verna’s decision.

At some point during the Climb, although Verna had the radio, she lost contact with her Old Rag Climb group.

But Verna Kept Going

Verna knew the Climb group was way beyond her, and she wanted to quit – more than once – but when she got to the rock scramble, she met a group of 30-somethings celebrating a bachelor party. Verna chuckled at the tameness of their party. 

This group invited her to climb with them and made sure she kept up with them through the rock scramble, which Verna said wasn’t easy. 

Verna noted that she was likely older than the parents of the people in the group she joined. Yet, they continued to support her and encourage her as they reached the summit with her. 

Their takeaway after meeting up with Verna was, “You’re only as old as you let yourself be.” 

Bachelor Party Group Verna Climb for a Cure Connection

She took her time and persisted even though the Climb was difficult. Verna was truly relentless. 

Verna made the descent on her own. For about a third of the descent, the bachelor party group looked back to check on her and make sure she was OK.

All during the hike back, Verna talked to herself and kept her motivation going. She wanted to give up, but she had come too far. 

Toward the end of her descent, Verna was sore. Old injuries started to aggravate her, and her right side was beginning to numb. She thought even if she crawled to the end, she would make it and inspire those hesitant to tackle a challenge. 

When she would get discouraged, she would tell herself, “people are waiting for me. I don’t want to be rescued.”

Thunder was approaching, and she looked for shelter. As she continued walking people passed her by and said, “You’re almost there.” She was sure she was on the right path.

At last, Verna reached the end of the hike, where she spotted Erin and her husband running to welcome her back.

“That was the biggest relief,” said Verna.

#RelentlessClimber

Although many times throughout the Climb, Verna felt like she couldn’t keep going or she couldn’t finish, she kept telling herself, “I cannot not make it. I can’t stop. I can’t give up.”

The Climb route was a little over 9 miles from start to finish. Verna is small in stature at 4’10” and when she initially reached the rock scramble, she thought, “What do I do?” 

But with the help of the bachelor party group, she was able to climb, shimmy, crawl, and pull herself up and through cracks and crevices.

“You’re not just hiking at Old Rag. You’re going in between rocks and crawling underneath. You’re grabbing onto whatever you could grab onto.”

–Verna Tyree

A Survivor

Although Verna isn’t a colorectal cancer survivor, she survived a stroke four years ago. She said despite adversities, all survivors have a common thread: They never give up.

Verna’s stroke caused deficits to her right side, but rather than give in to the weakness, she pushes herself harder and to do more. Not just the day of the Climb, but every day.

She tends not to tell people she is a stroke survivor until after they know her and see what she is capable of.

“I did the Climb for myself. I did the Climb for other people. I am always testing myself. I find out that I am able to do so much, especially for my age and physical limitations. I can do this. Other people can do this, too. Don’t let perceived limitations hold you back.”

–-Verna Tyree

Verna noted that she never gave up. The group she was with at the rock scramble never gave up on her either. She learned a lot about herself, with the ultimate reward of reaching the summit and seeing breathtaking views.

It took Verna 11 hours to complete the Old Rag Climb, but she did it!

“The views were beautiful. The Climb was worth everything.”

–Verna Tyree

The Best Part of Climbing Old Rag

Verna’s favorite part of Climbing Old Rag was reaching the summit: Getting to the top of the mountain and taking in the gorgeous views.

Her second favorite part of the day was meeting Erin at the end of the path. 

Verna’s third favorite part of the Climb was realizing her own tenacity. 

Throughout the day, there were numerous times where Verna thought it would be easier if she turned around. But she felt that she went too far to give up and turn around.

“The Climb is not a race. It's a symbol of the struggle that patients face. Colorectal cancer but really any kind of hardship or medical diagnosis is about pushing forward and taking each obstacle as it comes. And sometimes you want to just give up and stop fighting. But you keep pushing. Some of us make it to the top some faster than others, but some don't ever get to the proverbial summit, and we carry their spirit with us. Verna made it to the top and back down again. It was mentally and physically challenging, but Verna did it, and she inspired so many people and that is what the Climb is all about.” 

Erin Darbouze, MPH, Fight CRC Health Policy Manager and 2022 Old Rag Mountain Climb for a Cure Leader
Verna Did It Old Rag Mountain Climb for a Cure

Verna’s Top 3 Tips

Verna belongs to a stroke survivor group on Facebook. After her Old Rag Climb, she posted photos to the group.

“I never imagined I would be able to do this Climb or could do it,"

Verna Tyree

Verna outlined her top 3 tips for survivors of health challenges:

1. Remember that everyone is recovering at different rates.

Not all people recover exactly the same way and within the same time periods. Your recovery will look and feel different.

2. Push yourself.

Set a goal and achieve it. Set another goal. Eventually get to the bigger goal. Set the smaller goals and keep going forward.

3. Realize tomorrow is another day.

If today you did your best, that’s enough! Tomorrow you can do more than you did today, and that’s good!

Verna keeps herself inspired, and her goal is to inspire others along the way.

“This Climb was truly a representation of what people fight every day.”

–Verna Tyree
Verna on Rock Old Rag Mountain

Verna’s Top 7 Tips for Climbing Comfortably

Before you hit the Climb trail, Verna has some advice to share. Here are Verna's top 7 tips for Climbing comfortably:

1. Research the route.

Know how long the hike will take, and if there are obstacles to work through, such as rock scrambles.

2. Physically prepare for the hike.

Work your way up to the number of miles you will ultimately be climbing.

3. Bring enough water and ice.

Verna thought she had more than enough water, but she ran out while making the descent. She wished she had more ice than she brought.

4. Consider less snacks, more supplements.

Verna had more snacks than she needed, but she wishes she had some supplements for the long hike.

5. Take sunscreen.

While she was on a mountain and the air was cool, the sun was still hot.

6. Be comfortable.

If you get a pebble in your shoe, stop to take it out immediately. Don’t wait until you’re finished the hike.

7. Tie on a bandana or small towel.

This keeps bugs out of your face or is handy for wiping down sweat. 

Keep Creating Climb Impact

Be a part of our community of relentless champions, climbing together to end colorectal cancer. Climb for a Cure raises funds to support our Path to a Cure for colorectal cancer, as we empower and inform patients while driving policy change and breakthrough research. 

It’s not too late to make an impact in the fight against colorectal cancer. We are almost at the $1,000,000 mark! Can you help us smash that goal?

Share Your #ClimbForACure Story

Do you have a Climb for Cure story or experience you would like to share? Create a reel or video telling us about it. Tag us at @FightCRC, on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter. Be sure to include the hashtags #ClimbForACure and #RelentlessClimber!

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