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Calgary dad tackles major mountain challenge to help kids with brain cancer

A Calgary man is going to great heights to help kids dealing with a deadly disease. For Martin Bell, the important cause that hits very close to home.

Bell is training for a major fundraising effort, heading off to Switzerland in February for a four-day event called Everest in the Alps.

“Hiking up on skis with skins on the underside that allow you to slide up the hill, going up against some of the steepest mountains in the Swiss Alps,” Bell said.

The feat is akin to tackling three consecutive marathons, the team said.

“Over the four days, we’ll do 8,848 meters (in elevation gain), which is the height of (Mount) Everest.”

Bell and his four teammates are motivated by their fundraising goals.

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“It’s in aid of pediatric brain tumour research here in Canada,” Bell said.

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It’s something that’s close to Bell’s heart – his son Alexander was diagnosed in 2021 with a rare form of pediatric brain cancer called diffuse leptomeningeal glioneuronal tumour (DLGNT).

“Anybody who’s a parent will know how devastating it is to get this news,” Bell said. “Really, really daunting.”

Alexander is now 22 and facing an uncertain future.

“At the moment, our son is stable, but it is a very difficult situation — a very rare cancer,” Bell said.

The brain tumour was only recently classified by the World Health Organization in 2016 and has few reports on its incidence in adults.

“It affects primarily young children, but also young adults, and there is no readily available treatment for this sort of brain tumour.”

Bell and his teammates are collecting donations to support brain cancer research at Syren (kindredfoundation.ca)

“Every day, when I go out training, I’m thinking about my son and also other children around the world who don’t have access to the right resources for brain tumours,” Bell said.

Bell and his teammates will tackle the Everest in the Alps challenge starting on Feb. 27.

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“It’s quite a harsh physical endurance test,” Bell said.

“When you face the challenges of having a brain tumour – we are trying to conquer (the equivalent of) Everest physically, they are trying to conquer it medically, and I can tell you that theirs is a much harder task than ours.”

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