Cancer survivor, his doctor to hike Mount Kilimanjaro

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Ken Brown, a cancer survivor, and his doctor are getting ready to hike Mount Kilimanjaro. (WLS)

Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro was a dream of Ken Brown, but it took a cancer diagnosis to jumpstart the plan into reality.

Four years ago, Brown was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which has a survival rate of 5 percent. On Thursday, he leaves for Tanzania to hike Mount Kilimanjaro - and he's bringing the doctor who saved his life.

"It's unfortunate that it took a life-changing event to go ahead and make me realize that when you have an opportunity to do something, do it," said Brown, who had wanted to hike Kilimanjaro since 2011 when he and his wife went on safari in Tanzania.

Pancreatic cancer's survival rate increases to 22 percent with surgery so, after extensive research, Brown sought out oncology surgeon Dr. Malcolm Bilimoria at Northwest Community Healthcare.

"I could see when I first met Ken, he was a lot like the patients I see in the clinic, a real fighter," Bilimoria said.

Brown underwent three months of chemotherapy, then a successful surgery with Dr. Bilimoria and then six more months of chemo.

That was followed up with checkups every few months. It was during a check-up in April that Brown asked Bilimoria about his summer plans, which included a hike up Kilimanjaro. Brown joked about tagging along, but after he was given a clean bill of health, his doctor decided to go for it.

"Having survived pancreatic (cancer) he should do whatever he wants to do, whatever makes him happy," said his wife, Bobbi Brown.

Brown leaves for Mount Kilimanjaro on Thursday, Dr. Bilimoria leaves Friday. They start their hike Sunday and it's scheduled to go six days. They will be joined with other physicians.

Now, Brown's dream has become a metaphor.

"People have different mountains they have to climb and it might be someone who's facing a different type of cancer and can't get out of bed after chemo," Brown said. "If they get out of bed that day, they've climbed a mountain equally as high as Kilimanjaro."

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