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Sean Swarner: Keep Climbing
When Sean Swarner was a 13 years old, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. His parents were informed that Sean was in the fourth and final stage of the disease, and that nothing could be done. Sean would die within three months.
But Sean surprised everyone by beating the odds and surviving. He seemed to be doing well, when a twist of fate threw another hurdle in the path of the plucky teenager. When he was 16, doctors found a golf ball-sized tumor attacking his right lung. This time it was Askin’s sarcoma, a rare but deadly form of cancer.
The Askin’s tumor was removed, but once again, the family received terrible news: Sean was expected to live for less than two weeks.
And yet again, Sean astounded the medical community and delighted his family and friends by surviving this second brutal cancer – and a medically-induced coma during his treatment.
After spending years in and out of hospitals, and defeating cancer twice, Sean realized that “no challenge would ever be too great or any peak too high,” he says on his website. Nearly a decade later, in 2002, and with only one workable lung because of the Askin’s surgery, Sean Swarner defeated the tallest and deadliest mountain in the world. Sean Swarner became famous as “the first cancer survivor to climb Mt. Everest.”
Since then, Sean has gone on to conquer the highest peaks in Africa, Antarctica, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America. Along with Everest in Asia, these comprise the legendary Seven Summits – the highest peak on every continent. He also completed the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, HI, in 2008. And to prove that there are no barriers too tough to tackle, Sean aims to add treks to the North and South geographic and magnetic poles to his accomplishments — the “Ultimate Grand Slam” for climbers and trekkers.
What is most surprising about Sean Swarner is the fact that he is actually more than just a cancer survivor. Sean is a medical mystery. According to published reports, Sean is believed to be the only person in the world ever to have been diagnosed with both Hodgkin’s disease and Askin’s sarcoma. And to have survived both of them as a teenager, and gone on to such “heights” (pun intended), he is also a medical marvel.
Sean’s story has been published in his inspirational autobiography, Keep Climbing: How I Beat Cancer and Reached the Top of the World (Atria, 2007). The book has been praised by many other mountaineers and athletes from various disciplines, including bicycle racing champion Lance Armstrong, and Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person to summit Mt. Everest who we profiled in a Newsflash earlier this year.
Famed British mountaineer Sir Christopher Bonington said: “I felt very humble in reading Sean’s account — I reached the top of Everest with a long mountaineering background and without a day’s serious illness in my life. He climbed so many ‘Everests’ in his life and achieved them against all the odds by sheer guts, determination and an indomitable sense of humor. This is a great and inspiring read on so many different levels.”
Lance Armstrong, himself a cancer survivor who went on to win multiple world titles, wrote this about Sean’s accomplishments: “The thing about cancer is that it forces you to focus on what is important and pushes you to the limits of your determination. As more people survive – and even thrive – beyond a cancer diagnosis, the disease is losing its status as an automatic death sentence. In being the first cancer survivor to reach the summit of Mount Everest, Sean Swarner not only realized his dream but also gave hope to millions of people affected by cancer. He has proved, once again, that there is life beyond a cancer diagnosis and that there is always reason to believe.”
Erik Weihenmayer, who authored Touch the Top of the World about his own conquest of Everest, said: “Sean Swarner’s riveting book about surviving cancer and eventually climbing Mount Everest is a validation of life. I found myself wincing at all the agonizing cancer tests and chemo treatments, empathizing with his teenage worries and struggles, and cheering each time he emerged from ashes to triumph again. Sean’s story is one of alchemy. Miraculously, he found a way to turn lead into gold. His story should give a profound sense of hope to all the would-be alchemists who yearn not only to survive their struggles but to turn them into the fuel to climb the highest mountains.”
Sean has continued to defy the odds, and to push the limits of his own strength and endurance. He continues to share his message of “healing, hope, and triumph” with cancer patients worldwide as a motivational speaker. On his website, Sean says his presentations offer a message of hope that “taps into that motivational adrenaline rush that runs through all of us”, revealing how life can offer limitless possibilities when one meets, and overcomes, what were seemingly impossible odds.
At Novus Medical Detox Center, our clients have found their own messages of hope, and are meeting head-on what earlier seemed like impossible odds to overcome substance abuse. We are proud to help every one of them reach their goals.
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