Dying Woman Paddles Until Death
With 6 months to live, Michele Baldwin embarks on a month-long voyage down the Ganges
Posted on October 19, 2011 by Dana Sitar (Blog Writer, SevenPonds)
Michele Baldwin, at 45 and a mother of three, has come up with a unique way to spend what may be her final days.
“I”m going out with a bang.”
Baldwin discovered early in the summer that she had cervical cancer, a form of cancer that claims 250,000 lives each year. She recently learned that, due to a rapid advancement of the cancer throughout her system, she had only about six months to live. In the face of this deadline, she decided to embark on a 700-mile stand-up paddleboard trip down the Ganges River in India.
“I’m going out with a bang,” Baldwin told SUP magazine.
With possibly just months left, she is embarking on this journey not solely out of an interest in the sport, but also because she feels it’s something she “must do”, she told SUP.
“If I do live long enough to come home,” she said, “if I have a miracle, I’ll continue to fund-raise and maybe even plan another trip.”
With the publicity of this trip and other efforts, Baldwin hopes to raise $100,000 for the Global Initiative Against HPV and Cervical Cancer.
Baldwin is a practicing Buddhist and a canoeing-kayaking guide from New Mexico. She set off last Monday for India and begins the trip down the river this week. She’ll ride a 12-foot inflatable stand-up paddleboard from Rishikesh in the Himalayas to the city of Varanasi. She hopes to cover 25 miles each day, with two four-hour sessions per day, to finish the voyage in about a month.
A friend will accompany Baldwin on the trip, riding alongside in a skull canoe and towing a small boat, so that Baldwin can rest when she needs to. Her family supports her completely in her endeavor. Audrey Baldwin, Michele’s 12-year-old daughter, has helped plan the adventure with her mom, and she even spoke to her class about her mom’s experiences and plans. She also spoke to the importance of Pap tests, reminding them that with regular screening and vaccination, cervical cancer is almost completely preventable.
“Although I’m prepared to die during the expedition,” Baldwin said, “I don’t want it for my kids…I just want to inspire them to live in a way that is strong.
The voyage has become more urgent lately to Baldwin, with the six-month prognosis. The cancer, which has spread to her lymph nodes, is increasingly sapping her strength and causing more pain and nausea.
Through her courageous journey, Baldwin hopes “to inspire others to live to the end.”
For more information about the trip, visit Michele Baldwin’s site: starryganga.com
To donate to Baldwin’s living memorial:giahc.org
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