A TEENAGER from Knaresborough is celebrating hitting the heights after conquering Africa’s highest mountains to celebrate his successful battle against cancer.
Kai Sunley, 17, defied freezing weather and altitude sickness to reach the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania less than two months after being given the all-clear by doctors in Leeds.
The youngster was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma last summer and underwent six months of debilitating treatment, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy at Leeds General Infirmary and St James’ Hospital before receiving a clean bill of health just before Christmas.
Throughout his treatment Kai and his family were supported by the Yorkshire charity Candlelighters and the teenager’s trek was inspired by his desire to thank them for helping him through the darkest chapter in his young life.
“Climbing Kilimanjaro was something I could only dream about before my illness but once I was diagnosed with cancer it became something that drove me to get better,” he said.
“It was a lot more difficult than I thought it was going to be, especially getting to the summit.
“When we left base camp it was 35 degrees Celsius but at the top of the mountain it was -16. Lots of people dropped out the higher we got because the air was so thin and altitude sickness takes it out of you.
“I was the only member of my group to make it to the top. For the last leg we set off at 11pm so that we could try to get there for 5.30 to see the sunrise.
“I felt really, really poorly and could only spend 20 minutes on the summit but it was amazing to be be there and watch the sunrise. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Kai’s illness meant he had to put his studies on hold to complete an intense course of treatment last year and he is now planning to return to school in September to start his A levels. And looking at another adventure.
“It would be good to do something even more adventurous next time, and raise even more funds for Candlelighters,” he said.
“They were brilliant with me all the way through my illness and gave me and my family so much help.”
Kai has so far received £1,500 in donations but is hoping to raise more: half of all money raised will be donated to Candlelighters with the other half split between the oncology wards at Leeds General Infirmary and St James’ in Leeds.
To donate to Kai’s Just Giving page click here