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Brother-sister team to hike in Iceland for Multiple Myeloma awareness

"This is my life and cancer doesn't own me"
Posted at 12:00 AM, Jul 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-17 00:00:28-04

SOUTH WALES, N.Y. (WKBW) — A brother and sister team from Western New York are ready to travel thousands of miles to Iceland to raise awareness for Multiple Myeloma- -a blood cancer that impacts plasma cells.

"This is my life and cancer doesn't own me and cancer is not going to determine how I feel, what I do or what happens to me," Multiple Myeloma survivor, John Klatt of Lyndonville, said.

In 2016 Klatt underwent a stem cell transplant after being diagnosed with the cancer.

"The doctors expected I had a life expectancy of three to possible four years. That was about three-and-a-half years ago," he said. Klatt continued, "The hematologist who diagnosed my case said most people would be diagnosed with 40-45% of cancer in their bone marrow. I had more than 80%."

His sister, Mary Schlabach of South Wales, became one of his caregivers. "To be a part of his battle and not knowing what the outcome would be was pretty scary," she recalls.

But it's been three years and Klatt is now in remission. He's part of a clinical trial at Roswell Park, thankful to be alive. So when he saw an opportunity to marry his love for outdoors with raising awareness for a disease that almost took his life...he was all in.

"I'm kind of the grandfather--not kind of--I am the grandfather of this group," he said with a laugh. At 66-year-old, Klatt is training for an intense hike in Iceland, trekking volcanoes and glaciers alongside his sister.

"It's more like I'm there by his side, but it's just beyond words and I'm very proud of him," Schlabach said.

The duo are joining about a dozen or so other hikers for "Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma." It's a challenge organized by the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and a media company to raise awareness and funds to go completely towards Multiple Myeloma research.

"We're a team of survivors, doctors, nurses, caregivers. We'll be hiking across a portion of Iceland," Klatt said.

It's just three weeks until Klatt and Schlabach fly to Iceland and hope to raise $15,000 for the cause.