Mount Kilimanjaro climber, motivator, loses third battle with ovarian cancer

March 28, 2013 8:10:00 PM PDT
We have a sad update to a story we brought you a year and a half ago. The woman who inspired seven others to climb Mount Kilimanjaro has died. Becky Pope passed away on Sunday. Even in their grief, the people whose lives she touched want.

The constant smile and the cheery costumes never gave away the fact that Pope was sick, and that's exactly the way she wanted it.

"She would always say, 'I choose joy, cancer doesn't define me,'" friend and trainer Shana Ross said.

We first met Pope in August 2011 when she and six other women were training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. It was Pope's brain-child.

In 2011, Pope told Eyewitness News, "I want to give hope," even though she had just been diagnosed with her third recurrence of ovarian cancer. She and Deb Sanders reached the summit ridge together.

"It was exhilarating and a moment I'll never forget," Sanders said.

Today it's one of Sanders' many memories of her.

"She was just an inspiring person in and of herself and every positive, a person with a warm heart," she said.

Sanders succumbed to the disease on Sunday, leaving behind hundreds who now cherish their time with her.

"She was like an angel," friend Judy Hayes said.

Hayes met Pope during her first chemotherapy treatment four years ago. Her costumes and treat bags lightened the mood.

"You got the feeling well maybe if she can do it, maybe there's hope, maybe I can do it," Hayes said.

Today, Hayes' ovarian cancer is in remission.

And on the days when it was hot and humid and the workout for the climb was hard, Ross says Pope never complained. Her message was clear to all who knew her.

"She could have just stood at the bottom of that mountain and said I wish I could get up there. But she never did that, she just went," Ross said.

It's her legacy.

"To say you can face a mountain, whatever that is in your life, and not only face it but we can overcome it," Pope told Eyewitness News in 2011.

Pope's wish was to have her ashes spread at Mount Kilimanjaro. Her partner and friends plan to do it in September of next year. And they are all walking in her memory in the ovarian cancer Sprint for Life on May 4.