By Courtney Vaughn
YUCCA VALLEY — In 2006, Esta Willman was a self-proclaimed couch potato.
She had no exercise regimen and never spent much time outdoors.
That year, Willman begrudgingly agreed to go on a hike with some friends. During the hike, she said she found her life calling.
In January, she will embark on an eight-day trek up Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro.
The 48-year-old’s transformation from homebody to mountain climber saw her shed 85 pounds, change her diet and gain a new love for the outdoors.
She’s climbed Mt. Whitney and several other high peaks.
“Being outdoors and having an active lifestyle was not part of my life at all,” Willman admitted. “I went from, ‘Oh, it’s too much trouble to get out of my chair and I don’t want to get dirty or break a sweat,’ to regular hiking and solo backpacking trips,” she said Wednesday from her office at MediSource.
Willman and her husband, Steve, have owned the medical-supply business for nearly 20 years and are in the process of closing it and moving out of the area.
By now, Willman is used to life changes, but it wasn’t until recently that she was compelled to embark on her African journey by a woman who lost her battle with breast cancer.
“A patient’s chart came across my desk. She was about my age and she had a very short time between the time she learned she had cancer and the time she died,” Willman explained. “I don’t know what it was, maybe the age similarity, but it struck me.”
Although Willman’s parents are cancer survivors and almost everyone in her family has been touched by cancer, it was the middle-aged woman’s story that hit close to home.
“She had to die at such a young age, with no notice,” Willman said.
As she plans her trip to Tanzania and prepares for the most challenging climb of her life, she hasn’t forgotten her muse.
Willman created a Passionately Pink for the Cure fundraising page through the Komen Foundation.
Supporters can donate to breast cancer research through the web page. All proceeds go to the Komen Foundation.
Willman will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with a friend and certified guide, but the trip won’t be easy. She’ll have to spend the night in temperatures below zero degrees on her way up to the 19,340-foot peak. Sacrificing comfort is no longer a problem for her.
“There is something that affects me about being out in the wilderness, far from civilization and manmade surroundings, something basic and so perfect about nature,” Willman mused. “The things in nature exist without man’s intervention. When I’m out there, it helps to put my life, my stress, my happiness in perspective. My life is but a blip in the timeline of the wilderness. I have a reverence for the wilderness, plants, animals and being surrounded by it frees my spirit. I can only imagine how my spirit will soar on the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro!”