Surviving a deadly form of ovarian cancer has given Mount Maunganui woman Tracy Pepper motivation to climb Mt Kilimanjaro.
Miss Pepper, originally from Canada, was born with an advanced (stage three) endodermal sinus tumour of the ovary, which wasn't discovered until she was 10 years old. Tracy's mother was told the young girl had a zero chance of survival.
She was put through a trial combination of harsh chemotherapy drugs and has lived to tell the tale.
"I was the 20th case in the world and at that time, 1985, there were no previous survivors. I was given a zero prognosis. Either I would pass away within a week or my mum could put me on a trial of newly introduced chemo drugs. There was potential for long-term damage, I can only imagine what a difficult decision that was for my mum."
Miss Pepper pulled through and in 2004, moved to Mount Maunganui. In 2007, another tumour was found in her ovaries and although it wasn't malignant, she had a hysterectomy and went through menopause at age 32.
Miss Pepper said it had been a real spiritual ordeal and she had decided her purpose in life was to live and tell her story to help others.
She has been involved with Canteen and has worked in summer camps to support young people dealing with cancer.
When she was asked to take part in the Mt Kilimanjaro climb to support Ovarian Cancer Canada, Miss Pepper said she jumped at the chance.
"I loved the metaphor behind it. If you're told you have cancer, you just think 'how am I going to get through this and how will I do that?"
She will be one of a group of about 25 ovarian cancer survivors and supporters who will be undertaking the six-day expedition up the mountain in September.
Miss Pepper said the hardest part about the climb would be reaching the summit.
"I try not to think about it, it's going to be -25C and we're sleeping in tents. We have to start out for the summit at 11pm on the final night, so we will have to walk in the pitch dark and freezing cold to get to the summit by daybreak. It's a very daunting thought."
Miss Pepper said her training for the mission was a combination of yoga, meditation and breathing techniques.
"Lots of people are asking what my training consists of, it's amazing how many negative comments I've got from people when they hear I'm relying on yoga. They are really sceptical and I kind of want to show them they are wrong."
Miss Pepper is fundraising for her journey to Kilimanjaro. To follow her progress, visit her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/tracypepper.expeditionofhope.