Most people have not escaped death twice before the age of 17. Most people don’t climb to the edges of the earth — scaling the highest peaks. Most people are not two-time cancer survivor Sean Swarner — who’s headed to the North Pole to raise money for cancer institutions on April 1.
“You can go 30 days without food, you can live three days without water, but can’t go 30 seconds without hope, because without hope, we truly have nothing,” Sean Swarner says while looking back on his life.
Sean has always had hope. Sean has always wanted to live another day.
His childhood began the ordinary way – running, playing sports, hanging with friends, typical kid activities. Until one day, while shooting hoops, his knees buckled, he collapsed, and his mom rushed him to the hospital.
“Do you know an oncologist?” the doctor asked, before revealing that at the age of 13, Sean had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and less than three months to live.
Despite all odds, Sean made a full recovery. He was a normal kid again; he went back to all the things he used to do and, if you didn’t know, you would have never guessed he had ever been sick. That was until, at the age of 16, he was diagnosed with Askin’s Sarcoma — a cancer combination that’s never been recorded again. This time, he was read his last rites and given 14 days to live, but once again, Sean proved the doctors wrong.
Not only did Sean survive, he grew determined that no challenge would ever be too great, no peak too high.
So he put his determination to the test. He was going to climb Mt. Everest with one functioning lung (he lost the other one to radiation) — and he was going to become the first cancer survivor to do so. In fact, not only was Sean going to climb to the highest peak on earth, he was going to take as many people with him as possible, as he packed a flag with of names of people who were touched by cancer with him.
Sean stepped onto the ice, and he kept on moving. One step. Another step. One more. Until one day, Sean Swarner, the boy who was handed a death sentence twice, stood on top of the world.
On the world’s highest point, Sean grabbed his flag, with the names of everyone touched by cancer, and dug it into the ice proving, once again, anything is possible when you have hope.
For most people, Everest would have been enough. Sean isn’t most people. Since then, he’s kept climbing, topping the highest peaks in Africa, Europe, South America, Australia, Antarctica, and North America, thus completing the 7-Summits, in addition to conquering the South Pole and the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii.
“I’m not finished yet.”
On April 1, Sean Swarner will land on the ice of the Arctic with his flag in hand. He’ll ski, one step at a time, until he reaches the North Pole, officially completing the Explorer’s Grand Slam.
Not only does Sean wake up every, single day, he lives each one to the max. Many people are alive, but not all are living. Sean should have been dead many times over. His differentiator? Hope.