Lt. Jennifer Vrana of the Philadelphia Police Department, could hike miles and miles of Wissahickon Park while wearing a blindfold. She’s an expert. It’s probably the easiest hill she’s had to climb.
“They were excited that they could keep diagnoses like mine alive for up to 7 years,” she explained. “Needless to say, I fired every doctor that was in that room.”
The cancer diagnoses came in November of 2001. She says she chose to live, and by living, she completely changed her life.
“When I was first diagnosed and going through the first few years after, I made a bucket list before the movie the ‘Bucket List’ came out,” Vrana said. “I’ve been skydiving over the desert in Arizona, I’ve been to the pyramids in Egypt, I mean, I’m on my third list.”
The next item on the list is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. She leaves Thursday and will summit on the 17th anniversary of her life-saving stem cell transplant. The mountain is 19,341 feet high and she wants to raise a dollar for every step she takes for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She’s committed to finding a cure.
“Well, in particular, a good friend of mine is very sick right now. I’m sending her videos almost daily,” she said.
On her last day of training, she brought along her toy Australian shepherd, Lola, who loves to nip at her heels to keep her moving.
Something else will be nipping at Vrana’s heart as she climbs Kilimanjaro–all the friends she’s lost to cancer over the years.
“I’ll be about as close to heaven as you can get on this Earth and I plan on reaching up and saying hi,” she said.