James McGuffey is climbing mountains both literally and figuratively. But what inspires him to do the first has all to do with the second: his wife Carleen who is living with hepatitis C.
Carleen received a diagnosis three years ago while she was pregnant with their sixth child. The knowledge was even more painful in realizing that she was likely walking around with the virus for 25 years – as a result of a blood transfusion.
“It’s difficult to watch Carleen suffer the physical and emotional effects of hepatitis C but we are fighting it as a family,” says James, who lives near Colorado Springs and is father to five boys and one girl ages two through 17. It helps that the stigma surrounding the disease is lifting and that there are new drugs that are easier to tolerate and offer the hope of a cure.”
While Carleen is not a candidate for the new drug treatment regimens, which have eliminated the virus in as many as 90% of patients with the most common strains, she and James are optimistic about the newer medications that are expected to be approved by the FDA as early as this year.
For now, James and Carleen want to support the American Liver Foundation in any way they can to help facilitate greater awareness about hepatitis C and encourage early testing, and advance research that will lead to cures.
One way is to scale the majestic Mount Rainier, which James will do with his son Kaleb this June and raise money for ALF while doing so. Says James, “It is certainly a challenge but no greater than the one Carleen faces every day. I am in awe of her strength and in awe of her spirit. Together we can fight this disease and win.”
To climb mountains is about scaling the peaks of one’s life and continuing to climb no matter what. An apt metaphor for the McGuffey family.