Illustration by Katy Lemay
Two-time cancer survivor Sean Swarner is out to show the world — and fellow cancer survivors — that achieving the impossible is, in fact, possible.
There are countless reasons to remain on the couch and avoid those nagging goals we all have, whether the objective is running two miles before work or making a drastic life change. Too busy? Out of shape? Don’t have the right equipment? Fear of change? Well, no matter the excuse, Sean Swarner proves that you can get past it. Way past it, in fact.
Swarner at the summit of Mount Vinson, the highest mountain in Antarctica. Temperature: minus 60 Fahrenheit.
Swarner, a two-time cancer survivor, has climbed to the top of the highest peaks on every continent. He has completed the Ironman World Championship triathlon. And he travels the world to serve as a role model and inspiration for cancer patients and survivors.
After having spent years of his life in hospitals, having his body poisoned by chemotherapy and being told twice that he had only weeks to live, Swarner, 36, with only one fully functioning lung, continues to prove that any excuse can be overcome.
“I don’t think any challenge is too great,” he says. “I want people to chase after their own dreams because of what I have done.”
He’s made it his goal to help people achieve those elusive dreams through his nonprofit organization, the CancerClimber Association, which works to instill in cancer patients a sense of hope through physical accomplishments. The organization will also take about 15 people to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro at the end of this month, an annual fundraiser that is in its fifth year.
The grueling endurance hike to the highest peak in Africa requires little mountaineering skill, but it does demand a strong will and attracts a mix of weekend warriors wanting to support a good cause — people whose loved ones have suffered from cancer and cancer survivors who have been drawn in by Swarner’s warm smile and remarkable accomplishments.
“His story was so inspirational, I read it and said, ‘I have to do this,’ ” explains Nicole Torrecampo, a 30-year-old marathoner and events producer from New York who is joining Swarner this year. “I am so humbled by this experience, but anyone can do it. There’s nothing stopping you.”