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Everest trip was a thrilling challenge, but well worth it for Bellevue cancer survivor and DHL employee

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

The song lyrics ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ have become a popular slogan for DHL Express and the focus of a contest sponsored by the company to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Patrick Shryock of Bellevue can say now, with all certainty, that those lyrics ring true for him as well.

Shryock thought about that as he was on a bus, on a three-hour trip to a remote village, one of the last stops before visiting the base camp of the tallest mountain peak in the world. 

He also thought about how, four years prior, he almost died, which meant he would never have seen any of it.

“Of course it crossed my mind,” said the 41-year-old DHL analyst and cancer survivor. “It made it all so much sweeter because it almost didn’t happen at all.”

Shryock returned home last week after three weeks away, where he and an international group representing the DHL Express company traveled to base camp on Mount Everest.

DHL Express, an international courier service, is known for its yellow trucks and airplanes, and now, the “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ lyrics. Shryock works in its Erlanger office.

This year the company and its employees celebrated DHL’s 50th anniversary in a special way.

Company officials decided to have a contest, where staff would explain their own “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” moments, or challenging moments they’d overcome in their lives. The best would join a group of employees to climb to the Base Camp at Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, located in the Himalayas.

Photos courtesy of Patrick Shryock

DHL employs more than 100,000 employees in 220 countries, and 1,700 of them sent in personal essays for the contest. That group was cut to 900, then 24, then the 14 who would make the trip, which included Shryock.

At first, Shryock wondered if he’d be able to finish the rigorous hike and climb to the base camp.

After a moment of thought, he put pen to paper and wrote his life story, which in a lot of ways began about four years ago, when he survived a battle with acute myeloid leukemia. More than 75 percent of patients who suffer from it succumb to the disease within five years, but Shryock never paid attention to those odds.

Still, things looked bad. At one point, Shryock was in a coma for 12 days, and his wife and son prepared for the worst, but little by little his body recovered.

Eventually, his strength came back. Now Shryock has been in remission for four years. 

In another year, he’ll be considered cancer-free. He now enjoys training for 5K and 10K races for fundraisers and other athletic events.

Oh, and then there’s that trip to Everest.

Physical challenges almost derailed journey, but Shryock persevered  

“Yeah, there were a couple of times where our hikes were pretty rigorous,” Shryock said. “But I always think back to those times when I was in the hospital, times when I came out of that coma and I couldn’t move – I couldn’t raise my arms. So I realized it wasn’t as bad as I thought.”

But there were physically challenging times, he said.

Most days began at small village tea houses where the group slept in unheated areas. They rose and had breakfast at 8 a.m., then it was off for more hiking until noon, where they would stop at another tea house for lunch. Then it was hiking to the next village for dinner — normally fried rice or noodles.

They would sit out in heated common areas after eating, and that’s where the international crew would get to know each other. With no television, there was really only conversation and journal-keeping to be done. WIFI was satisfactory, so Shryock was able to update his blog regularly.

But it wasn’t all selfies and storytelling. Along the way, Shryock developed Acute Mountain Sickness, where his body had trouble acclimating to the high altitude. He suffered nausea, headaches and had trouble breathing. He couldn’t eat and it was difficult to sleep. For a moment, he was actually in danger of not being able to complete the journey.

Just as his body had done four years earlier, however, he recovered.

For 12 days, the group wound their way through various villages, ending their trek at 8,900 feet in the air — also known as Base Camp of Mount Everest.

“It was definitely a thrill,” he said. “We made it – we got there. It was just exciting to see base camp from far away, like it was the finish line. It really helped all of us, like it was the last little push we needed to get there.”

They took pictures, met some of the team that was actually going all the way to the top, and had a meal.

“We were up there for about two hours,” he said. “And the landscape, it was so foreign it was like an alien world.”

And just as they had arrived, they were scheduled to head back down — before dark.

“As long as it took us to get up there, 12 days, a helicopter came and got us,” he said. “We made it back down in 15 minutes.”

They went back to Kathmandu, where they had a day to sightsee on their own. They were also able to visit the charity they were helping, which makes prosthetics for children in third-world countries.

He said that although he had traveled before in the past, nothing compared to this trip. But he definitely missed his Skyline Chili. And it was a little difficult getting used to being in his cubicle again at work.

“Even before I left, I called this the trip of a lifetime,” he said. “It’s more than going to base camp. It’s going to a different country, being a part of the local landscape. I would absolutely go back. I thank DHL so much — it was truly a remarkable experience.”

For more on Shryock’s trip to Base Camp at Mount Everest, including additional photos, click here.

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