Sarah Meghan Steinberg
July 2, 1982 – January 23, 2016
Meghan's Mountain is the story of Sarah “Meghan” Steinberg’s climb to life against cancer. Meghan worked to make the world aware of the devastating effects of cancer and the need for all of us to work together to raise awareness and funds to help those afflicted with cancer (patients and their families) so that they know they are not alone in their climb to life.
Meghan’s first battle with cancer
On January 29, 2005, Meghan, at the age of twenty-two, was diagnosed with leukemia (AML). At the time, she was a student at the University of Louisville school of Justice Administration. Because of her illness, Meghan had to withdraw from college, give up her part time job and begin the fight of her life-the fight to live.
In June of 2005, after spending almost four months in and out of hospitals in Louisville to put her cancer in remission, Meghan went to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, for a life-saving stem cell transplant (sometimes called a bone marrow transplant). Her brother, Justin, was her donor. Without this, Meghan would not have had a chance at life. Meghan underwent four months of treatment in Seattle before returning home in October of 2005.
The call to help others
Early on, Meghan realized that neither she nor her family truly understood what a cancer victim faced in order to live. And, if they did not understand, then others patients and their families must also not understand. Despite her own battle, Meghan opened up her world on the Internet so that others would be able to travel her road with her. Meghan called her climb to life, "Meghan’s Mountain". Almost daily, an email update, often with pictures, went out to tell the world what Meghan and her family had to endure, and to update them on how Meghan was doing. Early on, those emails were sent to people in over 25 states in the US, and as far as Africa, France, India and Mexico. Because of Meghan, more people throughout the world began to understand what it was like to fight this devastating disease called cancer. Meghan’s emails and pictures throughout her journey touched the lives of many.
It was not long before Meghan realized the impact of her journey on others. While in Seattle, Meghan received over 400 cards from people who were praying for her, including autographed pictures and best wishes from Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher, Lt. Governor Steve Pence, and University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, as well as the entire University of Louisville men's basketball team. Meghan also received many personal phone calls, including one from Wes Unseld, general manager of the Washington Wizards wishing Meghan well.
The one person who touched Meghan the most and gave her strength in her climb for life was former University of Louisville men's basketball coach and Naismith Hall of Fame Coach Denny Crum. Coach Crum visited Meghan in the hospital in Louisville, called her on the phone before she left for Seattle and before she returned home, and sent her cards and letters. Coach Crum stayed by Meghan’s side as she climbed her mountain against cancer. Coach later helped Meghan with each of her fundraising events.
Before Meghan started her foundation, she raised money and awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for their Light the Night Walk. Meghan, although under restrictions from her transplant, gave speeches to the Team in Training members who raise money for the Society. She also joined several team members in the final few blocks of the Kentucky Derby Mini-Marathon to let the world know that you never give up. That year, Meghan raised more money than any other individual ever in all of Kentucky and Southern Indiana and was awarded several Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Awards.
Meghan observed the pain and sorrow of so many who traveled a mountain like hers and, during her flight back home from Seattle, she decided that she was going to make a difference for cancer patients and their families. Meghan realized the importance of having love and prayers while climbing a mountain to beat cancer, and wanted to return that love to others.
Meghan, with the help of hundreds reaching out with her, made a lasting impact on the local community, as well as the Meghan's Mountain community across the United States and those internationally.
Here are just a few things Meghan did shortly after returning home in October 2005:
- Worked with the National Marrow Donor Program in Minneapolis
- Shared her picture of herself receiving her stem cell transplant on mini-billboards and bus stop shelter signs promoting the need for donors
- Worked with young students to make holiday cards for children fighting cancer. In 2007, Meghan collected over 550 holiday cards that were distributed to patients in Kosair Children's Hospital and the James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville; the Children's Hospital and Medical Regional Center in Seattle; and the Children's Hospital in Cincinnati.
- Visited newly-diagnosed cancer patients in hospitals to counsel them and let them know that they will not be alone in their climb up their mountain. With their permission, Meghan shared their stories in her emails, and asked that emails, cards, gifts and prayers be sent their way. Meghan also “adopted” children in Seattle and Louisville who were going through cancer treatment, talking with them regularly and giving them hope and belief in their climb.
Surrounded by Team in Training Members of the Society, in April of 2006, Meghan crossed the finish line of the Kentucky Derby Mini-Marathon on behalf of cancer victims everywhere to let them know that all things are possible if you believe.
Meghan was responsible for having the first Leukemia & Lymphoma Night at the Louisville Bats at Slugger Field. The Louisville Bats are the minor league team of the Cincinnati Reds.
Meghan held events during 2006 to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night event. Meghan raised more money than any other individual that year, and set a new record for the most money ever raised by an individual for the Light the Night in Kentucky and Southern Indiana, raising over $32,900.
Meghan’s story has appeared in the Courier-Journal, the Community Paper, and she has appeared on WLKY-TV and WHAS-TV. Metro Council, the governing body of Louisville, Kentucky, presented Meghan with an award for her efforts in awareness and raising funds to fight cancer. Kentucky Lt. Governor Steve Pence honored Meghan by having her become a member of the Order of Kentucky Colonels.
Meghan was the 2006 Honoree of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Journey of Hope Award and the 2006 Winner’s Circle Award.
foundinG Meghan’s Mountain Charitable Foundation, Inc.
In July of 2006, Meghan went to Seattle for her one-year check-up – and her restrictions were lifted. Meghan and her father, Jerry, visited children at the Children's Hospital in Seattle. She entered the room of a young Hispanic child and began talking to her. During the conversation she asked the child what she wanted for Christmas, even though it was July: she said she always wanted a boom box. After leaving the room she told her father that this child did not have cards on her wall, a computer or any other personal items like she had. So they bought a boom box, had it gift wrapped and took it back to the child. The girl and her mother cried – love had been delivered to that child who was climbing her mountain. It was then that Meghan decided to form her foundation for one sole purpose….to touch the lives of the patients and families that were fighting cancer. To let them know that on one will ever climb their mountain alone. Meghan’s Mountain Charitable Foundation, Inc. was born.
Meghan’s Mountain raises money for what Meghan calls “direct patient care”. The funds must be used to directly touch the lives of cancer patients and their immediate family. Meghan has purchased TV’s for children’s outpatient clinics and for adult clinic waiting rooms. She has purchased special made recliners and a blanket warmer machine for adult clinics. Radios for hospital rooms. A washer and dryer for parents in Kosair Children’s Hospital so they don’t have to go far and leave their children alone for long periods of time. She has had Valentine Day parties in hospitals, taken Santa and Mrs. Claus to hospitals on Christmas Day to disperse gifts, and has donated to such organizations as Camp Quality Kentuckiana USA and Indian Summer Camp so that kids with cancer can have a free one week camp to be kids again. She has purchased items for the Children’s Hospital at the University of Kentucky. She has paid for Pediatric Parents night at Gilda’s Club Louisville where parents can have one night of enjoyment for themselves, and she has paid for weekend retreats for teenagers afflicted with cancer so they can have a weekend of fun.
These are just a few of the things Meghan accomplished since her foundation was started.
Since her original diagnosis, Meghan always battled cancer and its side effects in one form or another, but never let it interfere with her lighting the mountains for others. Meghan and the Meghan’s Mountain Foundation and community continued to raise funds to provide support, and share prayers for others also battling cancer.
She battled three more rounds of cancer before passing away on January 23, 2016. Meghan, understanding that she would soon pass, asked that her foundation continue so that her “brothers and sisters” fighting cancer would know that they will never climb their mountain alone.
Meghan’s funeral was very special. It was attended by over 500 people, with eulogies given by her Rabbi, Rabbi Slosberg; her “hero”, Coach Denny Crum; and her sister, Libby. Her procession to her final resting place was a testament to the love that others share for Meghan: there were over a dozen police and sheriff’s cars leading the way. Cards and letters came in from all over this country, sharing how Meghan had touched the lives of many. In her memory, over $27,000 was donated to her foundation from people that she had touched.
The Future of Meghan's Mountain
Meghan’s Mountain, under the guidance of its Officers, Directors and Advisory Board, will continue Meghan’s work and dreams.
Sarah “Meghan” Steinberg lived her life for others so that their journey up their mountain against cancer would not be alone. We, the directors, officers and Advisory Board will do all we can to make sure that her dreams will continue…so that no one will ever have to climb their mountain alone. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.
We thank those who have been on this journey with us, and welcome you if you are new to Meghan’s Mountain.