Irvine woman conquers Mount Everest, Iditarod

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An Irvine woman who battles a rare disease has managed to climb Mount Everest and compete in the Iditarod trail sled dog race. (Erin Montgomery)

Cindy Abbott knows a thing or two about persevering and reaching goals.

In 2010, the Irvine resident joined an elite club of climbers who have reached Mount Everest's summit. Her climb became the subject of a documentary.

"I took it 10 feet at a time. Deal with this section, if everything's fine, go on to the next section. That's ultimately how I got up Everest," Abbott said.

What makes the feat more incredible is that she's terminally ill and blind in her left eye. Abbott suffers from a rare disease called Wegener's granulomatosis.

"My immune system is trying to destroy my blood vessels, which as you can imagine, is not good," Abbott said.

She takes dozens of pills a day and has suffered strokes in the past.

But Abbott didn't want her diagnosis to stop her from reaching the world's highest peak or from completing her newest challenge, the grueling Iditarod.

"You literally are out there by yourself in the Alaskan wilderness in the storms," Abbott said.

Last week, with the support of her husband, she crossed the finish line of the 1,000-mile sled dog race.

Like she did when she summited Mount Everest, she took a photo with her National Organization of Rare Disorders banner. She hopes it'll inspire others like her to focus on living life and nothing else.

"My disease did not write the life and times of Cindy Abbott. Cindy Abbott is writing the life and times of Cindy Abbott," she said.

Abbott's the first woman to summit Mount Everest and finish the Iditarod, but she's not done reaching for the stars.

"I'd like to take that NORD banner that I held on Mount Everest, that I finished the Iditarod with, and take it to the moon," Abbott said.
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