Local resident hikes up Humboldt Peak to celebrate five-year cancer free milestone

Neil DeStefano has completed his sixth hike since his cancer diagnosis, along with five 10-mile runs and four half marathons.

Neil DeStefano is pictured on his most recent hike up Humboldt Peak in Colorado.

Climbing mountains isn’t the only feat Neil DeStefano has accomplished in the past five years.

In 2013, DeStefano made plans to climb Quandary Peak, a 14,265 foot mountain with his friend Tom Ori, whom he met on a business trip to Colorado. Soon after these arrangements, DeStefano was diagnosed with prostate cancer and was unsure if he would be able to partake in this hike.

After clearance from his doctor, he decided to proceed with the hike. DeStefano said he became overwhelmed with emotions after the completion of the seven hour climb, due to the satisfaction of his accomplishment so soon after his diagnosis.

Since then, DeStefano has climbed an additional five mountains — Mt. Democrat at 14,148 feet in 2014, Mt. Cameron at 14,238 feet in 2014, Mt. Lindsey at 14,042 feet in 2015, Uncompahgre Peak at 14,309 feet in 2015 and Humboldt Peak at 14,064 feet in 2018.

His most recent hike has been a celebration for being five-years cancer free, stating that five years is known as the “magic number for being cured.”

Simultaneously, DeStefano has been running for the American Cancer Society as a part of “Team DetermiNation” since his diagnosis, completing five, 10-mile Broad Street runs in Phildelphia and four half marathons.

“For me, mentally, I thought if I can climb mountains and I can run a half marathon, it’s kind of like tricking yourself into thinking you don’t have cancer,” DeStefano said. “It’s a motivation thing that I got into and it forces me to stay fit.”

Once he completed his 11 hour hike up Humboldt Peak, he was determined that if he could complete an 11 hour hike, he can run a full marathon.

DeStefano has already began training for the marathon taking place in November, with plans to run the equivalent of a full marathon each week leading up to the event.

He has ranked in the top three fundraisers for the past five years in Team DetermiNation — a nationwide team of 600 to 800 runners. DeStefano has represented his passion for this team by getting a DetermiNation tattoo.

“One of the reasons for the continued running, climbing and whatever challenge is next, and the tattoo, is to keep the [five-year cancer free] reminder fresh, to be thankful for my health, to pay it forward and create awareness,” DeStefano said.

He stated that he is not only running for himself, he is running for both of his parents he lost to cancer, two close friends lost to cancer, his brother that was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, as well as all others who have been affected by cancer.

“I’m just a local guy that’s doing something to try give back, and most people have somebody in their lives that have had to deal with this,” DeStefano said.

To donate to Team DetermiNation, visit http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/DetermiNation/CFPCY18NER?px=35668533&pg=personal&fr_id=90542.