HPU Professor and Cancer Survivor to Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro

Dr. Sarah Nielsen, assistant professor of human relations at High Point University, is a cancer survivor who pledged to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in her efforts to raise $11,000 to fund a cervical cancer testing site in Tanzania.


HIGH POINT, N.C., July 11, 2018 – A High Point University professor who overcame cancer will take her passion for advocacy and awareness to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Nielsen climbs regularly with fellow Triad outdoor enthusiasts, several of whom will also accompany her on the Mt. Kilimanjaro journey.

Dr. Sarah Nielsen, assistant professor of human relations at HPU, and seven fellow hikers have raised $11,000 to fund a cervical cancer screening site in Tanzania, where the mortality rate for women with cervical cancer is nearly 80 percent.

Nielsen committed to climbing the 19,000-foot mountain after her experience with cancer changed her perspective on life.

“Immediately after my diagnoses, I became focused on what my purpose was and what I wanted to get out of life,” she says. “One of those things was advocacy. Cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable, and no one should have to experience what I experienced.”

Nielsen was diagnosed with cervical pre-cancer in 2011 and underwent a hysterectomy. In 2014, she was diagnosed with vaginal cancer. She underwent rounds of chemotherapy and radiation while raising three children and continuing to teach classes at HPU.

Today, she is once again cancer free and working to prevent other women from developing cervical and vaginal

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Nielsen is pictured on the far right with her team members during a recent climb up Mount Mitchell.

cancers caused by HPV. She delivers public speeches to community groups about cervical and vaginal cancers, which she learned were not as commonly talked about as other types of cancer. In 2017, Nielsen helped students organize the “Blowouts and ManiCURES Event.” It provided a comfortable setting where students could discuss cervical cancer and Nielsen could share her story with them.

She also competes in 5K and triathlon races to raise funds for cancer research.

“Another thing I’ve embraced since my diagnoses is a sense of adventure,” says Nielsen. I made a list of all the things and places I wanted to see and have made an effort to do them now instead of saying I’ll get around to it. I want to take my family and friends with me on these adventures and encourage others, especially my children, to be action-oriented in their lives.”

Mt. Kilimanjaro is her next step.

“One of my friends who is an ovarian cancer survivor climbed the mountain and inspired me to do it as well,” says Nielsen. “My problem was that I didn’t have anyone who wanted to go with me. After a few years of searching, I’ve convinced some adventurous friends, including my oncologist, to go with me. We have a group of eight going to support an amazing cause.”

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