From Everest to breast cancer: diagnosis sparks new chapter in Bagley's 'Summit!' book

Skye Kinkade
Siskiyou Daily News
Laurie Bagley

After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019, former Mount Shasta resident and mountain climbing extraordinaire Laurie Bagley has added a new chapter to her book, “Summit!: One Woman’s Mount Everest Climb Guides You to Success.”

Originally written in 2008, “Summit!” is about Bagley’s personal journey scaling Mt. Everest as well as strategies to help others reach their own goals and dreams.

“I never intended to write an additional chapter to my book and life had other plans for me,” said Bagley, who was the sixth U.S. woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest via the ultra-challenging North Col route in May of 2006. “I trust that my sharing will somehow make whatever your mountains look like a little easier to climb.”

Bagley – a coach, educator and speaker – has re-released “Summit!” with a new chapter specifically related to her diagnosis. It’s intended to support anyone who may also be experiencing huge health or life challenges, Bagley said.

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Navigating her treatment “took all the same skills, knowledge, and perseverance that I had acquired before and then some,” she said.

After two surgeries to have the lump removed, Bagley said her journey really began. Up until that point, she had been reacting to whatever news was thrown her way. Now she needed a plan to navigate her cancer treatment.

“This was all very new territory in so many ways and I soon realized that all the tools I had used in the past would be necessary with this new challenge,” Bagley said.

"Summit!: One Woman's Everest Climb Guides You to Success" has a new chapter specifically related to author Laurie Bagley's journey with breast cancer.

After radiation therapy and a revamp of her healthy eating plan and supplements, Bagley’s energy returned and her immune system is stronger, although she acknowledged she will “never be the same person ... and that’s not a bad thing.”

Physically, Bagley said she’ll never have the speed she once had. She used that speed in 2000 to set a record climbing Mt. Shasta in two hours and 13 minutes, beating her own record for the fastest ascent by a woman.

Bagley, who now lives in Hood River, Oregon, said ultimately her cancer diagonsis was “a huge character builder.”

“Each and every one of us will have something ... that comes into our life unexpected, unwelcome, and unplanned,” Bagley writes. “Slow and steady steps that address the most pressing concerns can give your body and your brain a break.”

“While climbing Everest and childbirth had been the most challenging events in my life, that changed (with the cancer diagnosis). I was given an opportunity to climb a different mountain and feel that sharing this with you may make your journey easier in some way,” said Bagley, who wrote “Summit!” in the two years following her Mt. Everest climb.

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Initially, Bagley said, she didn’t want to write the book herself, but the two people she asked to ghostwrite it didn’t work out.

“It fell on me to do it... I just realized if I wanted it done, I was going to have to do it myself,” Bagley said. “I didn’t see myself as a writer.”

With the help, support and encouragement of many, Bagley completed the book which was co-published by Ardenwood Books.

“Climbing is somewhat effortless for me as endurance has always been one of my gifts,” Bagley said at the time. “Writing, on the other hand, is difficult and not one of my gifts. In some ways finishing this book has been harder than most mountains I have climbed.”

“Summit!” documents Bagley’s harrowing Everest climb but is also a self help book that assists people in gaining skills necessary to reach their own goals, she explained.

“Your personal Mt. Everest will be different from mine, but if you continue to climb toward  your dream you will see the world as if from the highest peak on earth,” writes Bagley in chapter one.

Bagley said climbing Everest surpassed any other physical endeavor she had attempted. 

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“Waiting was one of the bigger challenges. I wasn’t used to it,” Bagley said. “At one point I thought all I have to do is get in a truck and go home.“

But she kept going and her mantra became “keep moving.”

“One of the hardest legs was to Camp 2. I told myself to take it one step at a time, stay in the moment and move forward. Keep moving,” Bagley said.

Bagley said the summit push from Camp 3 was a “straight 36 hour shot,” but that it was the way down that was the most difficult, and made more harrowing since her oxygen reserves had become dangerously low.

“We had climbed up in the dark. On the way down I saw how steep and treacherous it was,” Bagley said. “Keep moving I told myself. Get down. Get lower.”

The descent also put in perspective the mountain’s dangers as she passed the body of a climber, David Sharpe, who had just died and another climber in distress who would also die.

“I had to step over David Sharpe by myself. I told myself to keep moving,” said Bagley.

By using relaxation and focusing skills she had practiced in preparation for the climb, Bagley safely reached Camp Two and her spare oxygen bottles.

Following each chapter is a list of exercises the reader can complete which provide direction, practice, strategies and motivation to reach their full potential.

Today, Bagley said she is happy to be healthy and cancer-free for a year and a half. 

“Summit!” is available online only, through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and at her website, www.health-fitness-coaching.com.

Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation Siskiyou County resident and has lived in Mount Shasta and Weed her entire life.