Climb for the cure

Stiles brothers climbing part of Mount Everest to promote awareness for a multiple myeloma cure

By Dan McWilliams

Jeff Stiles, left, and Doug Stiles

Two brothers who graduated from Knoxville Catholic High School and now work together for the Knoxville Police Department (KPD) are climbing to Mount Everest’s base camp in October to raise funds for a good cause.

Capt. Jeff Stiles, 48, was diagnosed with the incurable blood cancer multiple myeloma four years ago. His disease has been in remission, during which time he hiked Machu Picchu in Peru in 2016 to raise funds for his type of cancer.

“Thanks be to God, all in remission,” he said. “We just keep going day by day, right?”

Lt. Doug Stiles, who turns 53 this month, oversees the Violent Crimes Unit at KPD. He will join his brother on the Everest hike to raise funds for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

“My role in this is mainly to raise awareness and funds, not only for him but for everyone who has this disease,” Doug Stiles said. “Hopefully, we can end this disease with a cure.”

The siblings have worked together at KPD for nearly 27 years. Their father, Tom Stiles, was a homicide detective who served at KPD from 1965 to 1996, overlapping both of his sons’ careers for a few years.

The brothers attend Immaculate Conception Church in Knoxville and Stiles family members have been longtime Diocese of Knoxville parishioners.

It is unusual for someone as young as Jeff Stiles to have multiple myeloma.

“Forty-four is a young age for this type of cancer,” he said. “Usually people are in their 60s and 70s when they are diagnosed with this. It’s an older person’s disease.”

He knew during a training session in 2014 that something was wrong.

“I had just completed a training course for the police department at the FBI Academy in Virginia,” he said. “I was doing this obstacle course but felt really terrible the whole time.”

He came home, and after a month and a half of not feeling any better, saw a doctor. Then came a visit to a specialist and the diagnosis.

“It is currently an incurable cancer,” Jeff Stiles said.

“Practically everyone relapses at some point. It comes back eventually. Our goal is to cure it. If we can’t cure it, we’d like to get it to where you can manage it long-term, like with diabetes or heart disease.”

The brothers have to be in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Oct. 26 before they fly to the site of the hike on Oct. 28. Other multiple myeloma survivors will hike with them to raise funds.

In an Aug. 7 interview, Doug Stiles said there is “a lot of excitement and a little anxiety” about the Everest trek.

“We’re about 11 weeks out now, so you can imagine what the training is like.”

Neither hiker has experienced an altitude like the one they will reach at the Everest base camp: 18,500 feet. At its pinnacle, Everest is more than 29,000 feet. To put that in perspective, the cruising altitude of many jet airliners is 30,000-35,000 feet.

“We’re just trying to do a lot of cardio,” Doug Stiles said. “I want to be in the best shape I can be.”

Training in East Tennessee can’t match the conditions at Everest.

“There’s not many places around East Tennessee to take you to that height,” Doug Stiles said.

When asked if Machu Picchu prepared him for Everest, Jeff Stiles said, “Not at all.

“I think it’s very difficult to prepare for a hike like this. The hardest thing to prepare for is the altitude. You just have to acclimate while you’re there.”

Jeff Stiles said he is making the Everest hike for two reasons: “to help speed the research toward finding a cure” and the fact that “you can do great things if you set your mind to it.

“I hope to educate, inspire, and make advances in finding a cure,” he said.


To donate to the brothers’ cause visit: 

Below is a letter from the Stiles brothers’ website about the hike:

Dear Friends and Family,

Doug and I will be participating in the Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma program in October 2018 by climbing to Everest Base Camp & Kalapathhar to raise funds and awareness for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) Team For Cures.

The work ahead of us? Climb 18,519 feet above sea level to the “front door” of the tallest mountain in the world, and raise at least $10,000 each for the MMRF. Training for this event is a big challenge, but nothing compared to the challenges faced by patients with multiple myeloma.

Multiple myeloma is the second most common form of blood cancer and, sadly, has one of the lowest five-year relative survival rates of all cancers. But while there is no cure, great progress is being made.

In fact, thanks to the important work of the MMRF, the world’s leading private funder of myeloma research, the FDA has approved 10 new treatments, including FOUR in just the past 18 months — a track record that’s unparalleled in the world of oncology. These drugs have tripled the lifespan of myeloma patients after diagnosis. And now the MMRF is funding more than 20 additional treatments in various stages of development, giving hope to tens of thousands of patients and their families.

The Goal: Raise $10,000 each for the MMRF’s life-extending cancer research!

The MMRF is one of the most highly regarded cancer foundations in the world. An outstanding 90 percent of the total MMRF budget goes directly towards research and related programming. And the MMRF is in the top 1 percent of all charities, having earned Charity Navigator’s 4-star rating for the past 11 years in a row.

Please support my participation in the Everest Base Camp/Kalapathhar Trek benefiting the MMRF. We have made a commitment to raise at least $10,000 each, and we need your help to get there. Please contribute whatever you can. It all adds up!

Jeff & Doug

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