Nova Scotia

Nova Scotian climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to honour late wife

A Nova Scotia man is preparing to climb Africa's tallest mountain in honour of the love of his life whom he lost one year and 10 days ago.

'She'll be with me for sure,' Dan McNeil says of late wife Shannon

Shannon McNeil was diagnosed with cancer in 2013. She and her husband Dan McNeil discussed her dream of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro while she was in hospital. (Submitted)

It's been one year and 10 days since Dan McNeil lost the love of his life.

Shannon McNeil was only 30 when she died from cancer, but her inner strength lives on.

"She's beautiful on so many levels," McNeil said of his late wife. "She was very independent, very strong."

McNeil says Shannon inspired him to tackle Africa's highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, while she was sick.

"It was closer to the end for Shannon. We were in [Alberta's] Tom Baker Cancer Centre and I knew she was stuck in bed there for the remainder of her days and we played a little game: 'If you could get up and do something, what would you do?'"

Shannon's wish list included going for a walk, eating at a nice restaurant, lying on the beach in Hawaii — and climbing Kilimanjaro.

Shannon McNeil looks out at Banff National Park. (Submitted)

"That's something she thought she would like to do, so that was added to the list. Now it's up to me to complete that list," McNeil said.

"It will be quite the adventure, for sure. It's all something very new to me. It's something that I can continue contact with her I guess, you know? It's not on any spiritual level, just inside of me, it will be something we can still do together."

He's calling it the Summit for Shannon, and his goal is to raise $10,000 for cancer research. He's already raised more than $8,000. 

McNeil leaves for Tanzania on Dec.16. 

"She'll be with me, for sure. It's something we're doing together."

'A rough road'

Shannon grew up in Pictou County, N.S. and Dan was raised in Baddeck. The couple first met in 2003 at the Highland Games in Antigonish. They reconnected in Calgary years later. 

When Shannon got sick in July 2013, the couple started writing a blog from Alberta to keep people up to date in Nova Scotia.

"We've had messages from people across the world — people Shannon has touched on different levels and people that we've never met before ... read it and were inspired," McNeil said.

"That's a word I've used a lot over the last few years because Shannon has inspired so many."


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