Swarner, First Cancer Survivor to Climb Seven Summits, becomes No Barriers Ambassador
At age 16, Sean Swarner was diagnosed with cancer — for the second time. Only three years earlier he had been treated for another deadly and unrelated form of the disease.
“It slowly hit me that I’m here fighting for my life,” he said.
While he was laying in a hospital bed being read his last rites, his friends were out playing sports. Swarner, a born athlete and record-setting swimmer, knew that he had to fight for every breath.
That incredible sense of all-too-soon impending finality mixed with a developing pubescent drive channeled his energy into conquering both forms of cancer, astounding the medical community in the process. But he didn’t stop there.
“I just knew that my life was different,” he said.
Swarner would go on to become the first cancer survivor to summit Mount Everest and scale the Seven Summits. He continues to climb and explore around the world. He is the founder of the Cancer Climber Association and went on to pen the book “Keep Climbing.”
Recently, Swarner became a No Barriers Ambassador, representing our work in his speeches and appearances around the world. He said he appreciates that No Barriers is more than just sweeping platitudes, that it’s an actionable life philosophy and a program that changes thousands of lives each year.
“I think what No Barriers is doing is fantastic,” he said. “The world needs more inspiration, but it needs even more examples. Not just people telling them what to do, but actual results and people showing by example. With that people can really see that what’s within them is stronger than what’s in their way.”
While the No Barriers Mindset occurred to Swarner naturally through his circumstances, he recognized that it doesn’t for all cancer survivors. He said one of his main hopes as a No Barriers Ambassador is to bring that message to those recently diagnosed with cancer, especially children.
“When people get cancer, people automatically think, ‘Oh, I’m sick.’ The parents think, ‘Oh, little Johnny is fragile,’” he said. “No — little Johnny is not fragile. Don’t instill that ‘Oh-poor-me syndrome’ into the child’s mind. Change that into, ‘Hey, I can do anything I want. Just slow it down here and there.’”
No Barriers Executive Director David Shurna said he is grateful and excited to have Swarner representing the organization.
“Sean’s story is exactly what a No Barriers mindset is made of,” he said. “Not only can we all learn from his words, but we should model our lives after his attitude and determination for not letting the largest of obstacles stop us from living a life of purpose.”
Shurna said Swarner also represents the No Barriers Life Elements of Elevation and Alchemy not only through his ambassadorship, but also through the Cancer Climber Association.
“To have accomplished so much and yet recognize the need to give back is an outstanding example of what we try to impart on our participants,” he said.