The cancer patient's journey: An uphill climb

October 21, 2004

Europe's leading cancer charity and the first cancer survivor ever to reach the summit of Mount Everest have teamed up to help others get the best help possible in the fight against cancer.

On 31 October, Sean Swarner will be speaking at the European Society for Medical Oncology's 3rd Patient Seminar, a meeting that provides a vital opportunity for cancer patients to hear about the latest in treatments from the world's top cancer doctors. The seminar makes the most of the fact that hundreds of leading oncologists are gathering for the 29th ESMO Congress to give cancer patients the latest news about chemotherapy and drugs. There are few fields in clinical medicine that are expanding as rapidly as oncology. "The patient seminar is a really fantastic idea, and I'm proud to be involved with it," Sean said. "I really wish something like this had been around in the early days for me."

Sean was diagnosed with final stage Hodgkin's disease at the age of 13, and given 3 months to live. After 10 months of chemotherapy the cancer went into remission, but just 18 months later doctors found a golf-ball sized tumor in his chest and told him he had just 14 days left to live.

Fourteen years later, he climbed Mt. Everest, the world's highest peak. "I remember when I was fighting cancer and all my friends were chasing girls, collecting baseball cards, and trying different styles with their hair - I had no hair," says Sean. "I had no girls who were interested in me because I was 60 lbs overweight, and I had no one to look up to, no models to encourage me. I felt so alone." "Climbing Everest was an attempt to become that support, that model, that encouragement, that inspiration to others who might not have someone to look up to," Sean says. "I wanted to become a beacon of hope to those battling cancer. I wanted to provide inspiration that they too can 'climb' out of their existing life and into an incredible one after the disease."

Sean's own personal climbing journey hasn't stopped either. He is now President and Co-founder of the non-profit organization, CancerClimber and is attempting to climb 'The 7-Summits'--the highest mountain on each continent. On every mountain he climbs, he plants a flag that says, 'Dedicated to all those affected by cancer in this small world! Keep climbing!'

As a sign of solidarity with all cancer patients, Sean plans to visit the Vienna Wilhelminen Hospital on Wednesday, 27 October 2004. Prof. Heinz Ludwig, Head of the Department of Medicine and Medical Oncology, looks forward to welcoming Sean Swarner and using his visit to raise awareness of the urgent need to increase cancer research and funding.

Sean Swarner is available for interviews on-site during the ESMO Congress. He will also be visiting the Wilhelminen Hospital in Vienna before the Patient Seminar, where he will be speaking with patients, and participate in the Press Conference 1, Sat. 30 October, 12:45-13:45, Austria Center, Vienna, Austria
For further information please contact: ESMO Press Room (29 October - 2 November)
Tel. 43-1-260-69-2020
Fax +3-1-260-69-2604

Gracemarie Bricalli
ESMO Communication Manager
Mobile 41-79-77-851-77

Vanessa Pavinato
ESMO Communication Assistant
Mobile 41-76-305-82-68

European Society for Medical Oncology

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