As Robert L. Masson climbed, he couldn’t help but notice the optical illusion of the mountain always in the distance, disappearing only once as he readied for the final hike to the top of the highest peak in Africa.When he reached the 19,341-foot summit of Mount Kilimanjaro — the tallest freestanding mountain in the world — he drank in views of the Serengeti and reveled in Africa’s simple, extraordinary beauty.
But for Masson, a 1988 graduate of the UF College of Medicine, this climb meant more than just a breathtaking view. It meant proving that he could heal from the neck reconstruction he underwent months earlier. And it also meant remembering his father and celebrating his sister.
The Central Florida resident ascended Mount Kilimanjaro in February as part of Livestrong’s Survivor Summit, an event to raise money and awareness for the organization’s fight against cancer. This cause hits home for Masson because his father died from cancer last year and his sister is a 20-year survivor.
“I always enjoy the actual climbing, but this one was special in that we were really climbing for other people,” said Masson, 50, an assistant professor in the College of Medicine’s department of neurosurgery. “It wasn’t about fun, it was about the message.”