“By climbing Kilimanjaro, I want to prove that a physical impairment does not necessarily need to be a disability. And it is by no means an excuse.”
Tom Belz contracted bone cancer at the age of 8 and, despite lengthy chemotherapy, his left leg had to be amputated. At the time, his greatest trauma was the shock of suddenly finding himself pigeon-holed. Doctors, physical therapists and even psychologists tried to persuade him of the benefits of an artificial limb. But it wasn’t for Tom. At the age of twelve, he rebelled against all the well-meaning advice and decided: he would live a normal - although extraordinary - life without a prosthesis, with one leg and two crutches.
Spurred on by prevailing skepticism, for three years, Tom played football in a regular club, learned to swim and played the drums. For him, sporting challenges are a way to show himself and the world that everyone has their own cross to bear in life.
“I would like to share my story because I can imagine that everyone has their own personal mountain to climb in life.”
The 31-year-old teacher from Offenbach am Main is now preparing for the trip of his life. In August, accompanied by the doctor Klaus Siegler, who cared for Tom during his cancer treatments, he will be climbing Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and one of the Seven Summits, equipped with just two crutches.
Tom explained the motivation for the project: “Since my amputation, people have been telling me what I can do, who I am and, in particular, all the things I can’t do. By climbing Kilimanjaro, I want to prove that a physical impairment does not necessarily need to be a disability. And it is by no means an excuse. At least, not for me! In the past, it would have been great if someone could have said to me that there was a crazy guy out there climbing mountains with just one leg. I would like to share my story because I can imagine that everyone has their own personal mountain to climb in life.”
“I think my pigheadedness will win out over the pain.”
Kilimanjaro has been omnipresent for Tom since the start of the year. He has pictures in his bathroom, on the fridge and even as the wallpaper on his cell phone. To prepare himself physically for the challenge, he has completed a training tour on the 3,600 meter Äusseres Barrhorn in the Swiss Alps. The ascent began at 1,800 meters, led to the Turtmannhütte at 2,500 meters on the first day and then the summit on day two. “What an amazingly beautiful view, what a feeling, what a great idea brought me up there, what major pain and what a cool training program for my next project!”
Would you like to find out how Tom gets on during his adventure on Kilimanjaro? Follow him on his Instagram channel here.