Wrapping up Indonesia

So as I’m sitting here trying to come up with the words to express how disappointing the last trip to Indonesia was and the attempt at the summit of Carstensz Pyramid, I’m reminded of the importance of life. I’m back home alive and have some incredible stories to share, and it was due to some dumb luck, yea, but also to some good decisions on my part.

While I was in Indonesia, I started a list of “things that went wrong” and started to get depressed, but I’m glad I did, because now I can type it out and laugh at everything because I had absolutely no control over all of these things and it’s only something that could have happened in a movie.

After booking the original trip of trekking to Base Camp (BC), it was cancelled because the villages we were going to trek through wanted more money and wouldn’t let anyone through. A week later, I was told we couldn’t trek in and had to go via helicopter, requiring more money (fuel for those things isn’t cheap), and a change in flights from America to Indonesia. A day before I was going to arrive, I was told the helicopter was broken and it wouldn’t be fixed for another week. Changing my flight, hotel, reservations, etc would be more expensive than going to Indonesia and staying at a cheap hotel because the helicopter “might be fixed” while I was in the country. Think that happened? Sigh.

So when I arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia (where the international flight landed in Indonesia and where I’d leave to get to Nabire (town where the helicopter was being “fixed”), I was told the heli would be just fine by the time I got to Nabire. So while there, I visited the local cancer hospital and shared my story with the children fighting for their lives as well as their parents and the adult patients… making the best of my time. I was in Jakarta for 2 days.

It’s expensive in Jakarta (it’s like NYC), and I found a flight to Bali for $50 and left the next day because it was MUCH cheaper there and I could leave from there to get to Nabire. I won’t even get into the internet problems with the hotel in Jakarta, but the hotel in Bali… well… I didn’t have one because everything was booked, but about an hour before I left Jakarta to get there, my friend (a travel agent in CA) found something for me.

While in Bali (we’re on day 4 by the way), I was told the “part” for the heli was ordered and would take about a week to get to Nabire. Later, I find out this “part” wasn’t anything like a “part” you’d expect. Maybe a spark plug, a rotor, anything but what it really was… the tail. Yea, the TAIL TO THE HELICOPTER!! Haha. So when they said “part” they actually meant “the helicopter itself.” So this “part” was going to get into Nabire in about a week and was an easy fix they said. Ok… no prob. My hotel in Bali was only for 3 nights because I was told the heli was going to be fixed by then. So I had to find another hotel (the one I was in was booked solid when my reservation was over). Hotel number 3 was nice, but didn’t have any mosquito netting to fend off any bugs with malaria. Sigh. No… I don’t have malaria, thank god. Anyhow… by this time I had no idea when I was flying to Nabire, but received a call after a few days at this new hotel and said we were leaving later that day to go from Nabire to Makassar (1.5 hour flight) to Biak (5 hour flight) to Nabire (1 hour flight). So I packed up my stuff to head out to another hotel and another city.

So I took off from Bali to Makassar, but in Makassar, I was told that all flights were booked to Biak and Nabire. (keeping up?) SO… hotel number 4, here we come. I was in Makassar for a few days because all flights were booked into Nabire (except another group managed to get 8 seats from Makassar to Nabire… hmmmm). While in Makassar, I was told the “part” for the heli got there, but they didn’t have the tools to put it on. Haha. Really? So a few days later (day 15 of the trip??) I was told the “part” was on, and there were flights to Nabire again. GREAT!! I’m heading over and going up the mountain because the heli was going to be fixed in a couple of days. I get to the Makassar airport and head to the gate for my 1AM flight to Biak where I was supposed to arrive at 6AM (2nd time zone change in Indonesia after the 12 from America), and the flight was delayed. I take a nap. Wake up… delayed. Nap. Wake up… delayed. Nap. Wake up and find out that the flight isn’t leaving until 6AM. By this time I had been at the airport for nearly 8 hours. Finally get an answer on the plane where they attempted to speak English and they said, “we apologize for the delay. The delay was due to reasons.” ………thanks. That clears everything up. I appreciate it.

Getting into Biak late, I luckily only had an hour before the flight to Nabire and it was a nice day. It was only 94. The entire time while I was trying to get to Nabire, we were also trying to negotiate using a different helicopter to take us to base camp. It was a Russian Kamov heli piloted by a crew of 4 Koreans. Through the negotiations, it was like that old “telephone game” where we’d say something in English to someone who spoke Indonesian to someone who spoke Korean. Hahaha… I give up. So we finally come to conclusions about the Kamov (basically price and the fact that we’d be “borrowing” it from a local gold mine), but there’s no fuel. So we try to get fuel, but get this… a couple weeks before, the country had a week-long holiday where people went to Nabire for vacation. The airlines ran more flights than normal to get the people there, but the week later, when they were trying to get people back home, they ran out of fuel because they didn’t plan for the extra flights. The fuel tanker comes by to sell them the normal weekly supply, they didn’t order more, the tanker didn’t have extra, so the people trying to get back home had to wait another week for the fuel and because of all that, we actually got fuel from the military in Biak to drop fuel in Nabire so we could use the Kamov heli. ….have I lost you yet?? Haha.

So after the fuel was “found” and after we could use the Kamov, they decide that the Kamov needed some sort of “anti-freezing” instrument placed on the blades because of the altitude. Great. Another part. Well that part was ordered, got there quickly (quick enough) but they didn’t have the tools to put it on either. Wonderful.

Back in Biak… flight finally takes off (it was delayed 5 hours) and I land in Nabire where I heard the smaller heli was fixed and was ready to go… GREAT!! But later find out that the heli IS fixed, however the Indonesian government wouldn’t let them test fly it until they had someone inspect it. …another 3 days for that person to get to town. In the mean time, the pilot for the heli isn’t even on the island and hasn’t come back from his vacation yet to do the test flight.

So back to the Kamov… fuel is there, crew is ready, we’re ready, part is finally on… we still can’t take the other heli, so we head up in the Kamov. After about an hour of flying up to base camp, we see it, but can’t land because the clouds are too thick and it’s too dangerous to land. We discussed us jumping out and the crew tossing us our climbing gear, but they weren’t too keen on that idea. So it’s back to Nabire.

Weather the next day wasn’t great, so we didn’t go anywhere and enjoyed the 103 temps with 100% humidity. I think one of my ears is a little lower because it melted a little and slid down my head.

The next day we attempted the base camp again. No dice. Back to Nabire again. We figured we’d try again tomorrow, but guess what… no fuel. We’re out. By this time the “inspector” for the smaller heli showed up and looked at the “part” they put on only to say, “great. Looks wonderful. Now take it off and put it back on in front of me so I know you did it right.” Sigh. Another 2 days of playing around in the jungle heat waiting on something that might not happen. In the mean time, we wanted to meet with the pilot because we heard he was going to be back on the island. We were told he was, we went to meet with him (but he was actually the co-pilot – pilot was in Makassar still on vacation). After meeting with the “pilot” as we were told he was, he mentioned something about the “part” being put back on the heli, but because it cracked, they had to wait for … I kid you not… the glue to dry. That’s about the time I figured it wasn’t in my best interest to go up this mountain and the signs (the numerous signs) were telling me it wasn’t my time and I should try to go home and return.

The next day I took off from Biak back to Jakarta, changed my flight out of Jakarta to a few days later (when I thought I’d actually get back to Jakarta), and spent nearly 10 hours in the airport trying to fly standby to get to Seoul to Chicago. Midnight comes rolling around, I sleep in the airport for a while, finally find a hotel, take a taxi there, check in, sleep for an hour or so, and get ready to head back to the airport again and fly home. That worked, and 2 days later I landed in Chicago.

Looking back at it, it’s one frustrating trip to say the least and I didn’t even cover everything that went wrong because this novella has gone on long enough. I did, however, get the opportunity to meet some incredible people and they have become some good friends...

Heli - 2


Internet problems

Happy ending

Makassar update

Trip to Nabire

Bali pt.1

Bali pt. 2


Hotel Secrets

Internet Problems

Chicken Liver


Hospital Visit Security

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Dont Drink the water!

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Dispatching from Seoul

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Sean's FINALLY in Indonesia and has arrived safely.

He relies on your messages and encouragement to "Keep Climbing!" You can send him messages via the internet directly to his satellite phone by going here:


Click on "send a satellite message" then follow the instructions, and make sure you input his number in the "To" field.

It's not easy getting his number, so treasure it and keep it in a safe place: 881632511299 "8816" only goes in once... fyi.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The next big climb- Carstenz Pyramid

It's a climb that would even have Indiana Jones shaking in his boots; four days from now, two-time cancer survivor Sean Swarner will board a plane to Indonesia to face Carstenz Pyramid. If he makes it to the top and home alive, he'll be one summit away from climbing the nine highest peaks in the world and from becoming the first cancer survivor to do it.

The climb itself isn't dangerous compared to the other mountains he's faced, but the environment surrounding it is what makes this climb more risky than all the rest; that's al ialso why it's considered the "crown jewel" of the mountaineering community.

The political unrest in the country takes the lives of dozens of civilians every year. The hike through the jungle on the way to the climb will force Sean and his crew to cross the Freeport Mine, an area where guerilla warriors are known to kill civilians every year; an Australian working near the mine was shot just last month. The peak was actually closed to climbers for more than a decade (between 1995 and 2005) because the political and social violence in the country became so heated.

Still, armed with bribe money and an experienced guide, Sean will embark on the 18 day trek, trying to avoid not only guerillas, but cannibals and endless diseases that still exist in the area.

He'll be documenting his climb through audio and video pod-casts he'll be able to update everyday with a satellite phone. Supporters will also be able to send text messages to Sean as he climbs the mountain and he'll be able to call them back. All people will have to do is go to his website to send a message to the satellite number.

Carstenz Pyramid Journey

Sean was recently interviewed on FOX news regarding his next big trip on his way to record breaking climbs.
Check out this interview he had explaining his next journey into the jungle of Indonesia to face Carstenz Pyramid

Monday, August 3, 2009

Day 9 Kilimajaro -- Summit reached!

Day 9 Kilimanjaro Climb

All of the CancerClimber team has reached the summit!

I’m sitting back in moshi, Tanzania right now getting ready for lunch and nodding away at the computer in the hotel. I’m tired. Very tired. Everyone is doing well. Everyone is fine. Everyone is happy. Everyone is glad to be off the mountain.

We all got to Barafu camp no problems. We hiked from Baranco through the high altitude desert to the last camp for about 7 hours. Once we got there, we rested, got some dinner and got ready for the summit push. We were awaken at 11PM for tea, some snacks and left Barafu at midnight for the summit. We had INCREDIBLE weather for a while, as there was absolutely no wind what so ever. We kept pushing through the night and kept going "pole pole" (pronounced POLE-eh) or "slowly slowly" as the locals say. The last camp was at about 15,200 feet and the summit is at 19,340. We hiked and climbed through the night fending off the sub-zero temperatures and just praying for the sun to come up early. Apparently Mother Nature didn't get that memo and the sun came up at the same time it normally does. Bummer. Anyhow, the sunrise... most beautiful sunrise anyone has ever seen. It started to crest the horizon, cracked out above the clouds and we started getting warmed by the rays. Truly God's country. From the time the sun came up, we had about 1 hour or so to go before we hit Stela Point. It was there that we all celebrated, hugged, got some warm tea, and could see the crater of the volcano. We could also see the summit and knew we had about 1 hour left. From here on out it was just a high altitude slog to the top. Once on the summit, I pulled out the Pringles, the celebratory Guinness, and I think 4 people ended up puking just from the thought. We snapped tons of photos, got the UICC flag out as well as the CancerClimber flag and headed back home (Barafu) to take a nap and rest up for the 3 - 4 hour hike to Mweka camp.

After climbing all through the night (8 hours and 32 minutes to be exact), then the 2-hour hike back to camp... well, let's just say the extra 3 hours to Mweka camp wasn't exactly ideal. All in all, it was about a 15 hour day and VERY exhausting. Ouch. From Mweka, we all had about 3 hours this morning to head to the gate and then back to the hotel where we are now... all waiting lunch, however something happened in the kitchen and we're not sure what to do since we just want to nap and sleep until next week.

I have a guest blog coming, but when we got to the last camp, everyone was so exhausted, no one wanted to do anything but sleep and rest. We only had about 4 hours to rest before we got up at 11 for the summit push and I thought it would be in everyone's best interest to just relax and not worry about that, so my apologies, however it was necessary.

Out of the group, 10 made it to the top. One didn't leave Barafu camp, another had to turn around due to some sever altitude sickness. HOWEVER... with all that said, every single person is happy, enjoying life, and ... well... glad to be back at the hotel. Everyone did an amazing job and I’m proud to call each and every person on the trip a true friend. Fantastic to say the least.

Tomorrow we are all heading out on a true "vacation" as it's the safari through the Serengeti, Lake Manyara, and the Ngorongoro crater. I’ll call in more updates and keep everyone abreast as to what's going on, but in the mean time... thank you all so so much for your support, your help, your prayers, and everything. It truly has been a magical trip and I want to do another one in about 9 months. Anyone interested in trekking to the summit of Africa and meeting the most incredible people in the world?? The folks on the trip who were guiding us up and who were helping with everything were more than fantastic.

Keep Climbing,

Sean Swarner

Friday, July 31, 2009

Day 6 Kilimajaro -- Really, Really, Late

Day 6 -- Really, Really Late

No blog for Sean and the CancerClimber team today... however, they are doing the summit push tonight at 12am Kilimanjaro time, 3 pm MST. It should take about 8 hours. Everyone is in amazing spirits and wants you to keep them in your thoughts and prayers. Everyone on the team is healthy and looking forward to reaching their goal of reaching the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Keep Climbing,


Day 5 Kilimajaro -- 9:17pm Kili time

Day 5 -- Kilimanjaro Climb

Windy, Windy, Windy... That describes how last night was.Thank god for

earplugs, that's all I can say. Up early at 6:30am, breakfast, then we hit

the trail for a 7 hour day. The only way to really describe this hike, is

to step on a treadmill at the incline on the steepest setting, do it at a

walk for 7 hours, only stopping to pee and have a 30 minute lunch. We did

manage to get up to the lava tower at 15,000 ft for some great acclamation.

Tonight, we are sleeping at 13,000 ft and hoping to get some rest before

heading to 16,000 ft and the last camp. Tomorrow night, we head up to the

summit God willing. One of the Climbers is doing a short guest blog and I

would like to share that with you now...

Jeff Dalpoggetto --

This has been the greatest challenge of my life. It has also been the

greatest experience of my life. There is no better way to celebrate 20

years of testicular cancer to be free and living life by challenging

yourself to do heights, experiences and adventures.

Sean --

Thank you all for the sat messages, please keep them coming and don't stop.

Peace out from the Baranco camp everyone is in great spirits and is excited

about tomorrow.

Keep Climbing,


Day 5 Kilimajaro -- 81

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Day 4 Kilimanjaro -- 8:00 pm Kili Time

Day 4 -- Kilimanjaro Climb

Morning came early today because not many people slept well.  Everyone woke up around 2am and couldn't get back to sleep.  Kris even stayed up till 4am reading.  Jeff ran to the toilet in his scibbies while Ursula and Deb were kept up by a snorting wild boar...  May be that is what was shot and would explain the bullet hole in my meat last night.  Breakfast was scrambled eggs and toast, Followed by some type of cream of wheat.  Good way to start our day.  After a looooong way up steep hills, we had lunch.  However, on our way I chatted with another cancer survivor.  Victor form Toronto, was hiking up and we chatted about hope and why each were doing the mountain.  Tomorrow, you will get a guest blogger and understand more about our quest to reach around the world and help through inspiration, hope and a never say die attitude.  Upon arriving Shira Camp we were all exhausted from the 6 hour trek and nearly 3000ft increase in altitude.  After getting some rest, a few people went to a really cool cave while others went and flew a fighter kite.  Good times had by all.  We just had dinner and are now snug in our sleeping bags and ready for bed.  Its not even 8pm and we are all ready to call it a night.  Tuto anana kesho and asante sana from the CancerClimber Kili family.  Thank you for the texts, please keep them coming... And always, Keep Climbing.

If you would like to sent the CancerClimber Team a text:

Go to www.iridium.com

Click send a satellite text (upper right corner)

881632511299 enter this number and write your text message to me and the CancerClimber Team.

Sean Swarner

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day 3 Kilimanjaro -- 9:00 pm Kili Time

Day 3 -- Kilimanjaro Climb

Communication made possible by www.mvsusa.com

Day started off on a wonderful note and we all packed up the van and headed to the Mountain's gate.  I have been fighting a cold and the higher we went the more my ears clogged.  Higher and higher my ears got more clogged.  Now I can't even hear very well.  The Machame gate was wonderful and after signing in we took off on the trail and headed up onto the mountain.  The rain forest was absolutely beautiful and the trek was fantastic.  Very difficult day and very steep.  It was amazing none the less.  About six hours later we rolled into camp and ate some snacks.  All the porters had the tents set up and ready for us.  Dinner was meat... Not sure what kind, but I swear my piece had a bullet hole in it.  Now its off to bed and we wake up at 6:30am  and go from the Macheme camp to the Shira plateau.  Five hour hike and we get to rest.  Got the text messages- awesome.  Thank so much and keep them coming.

If you would like to send me a text:

Go to www.iridium.com

Click send a satellite text (upper right corner)

881632511299 enter this number and write your text message to me and the CancerClimber Team.

Keep Climbing,


Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 2 Kilimanjaro

July 26th -- Kilimanjaro Climb

Communication made possible by http://www.mvsusa.com/

Yesterday had a great time with Theo, my friend, and his family. A couple of beers, some good laughs, a prayer for the trip (his brother is a pastor) and some great food his wife made.

Lincoln - his 14 month old son - was walking around, playing with the people there, until he dropped a bottle cap into Teel's glass. He shoved his entire hand into the beer, grabbed the cap and licked his hands clean. I mean slurping them. Like father like son I guess.

Then it was off to the airport to pick up the group. 7 of them came in last night. All looking pretty good considering they just had an 8 hour flight from Amsterdam. Gathered luggage, loaded up the bus and took off to Moshi. all were chatting until about 15 min into the trip when the entire bus went quiet. they all checked in, had some snacks, and crashed hard.

I got up for breakfast, waited for everyone else to get up. We have 2 more coming in later today.

I'm also heading to the local hospital today to visit the cancer patients and a radiologist I met yesterday. should be a great trip....

Keep Climbing,

Sean Swarner

Day 1 Kilimanjaro

July 25th -- Kilimanjaro Climb

Communication made possible by http://www.mvsusa.com/

Teel and I made it in just fine... tired, but just fine. Slept about 1 hour on our 30 hour trip but both doing well today. Jeff just got here about 1pm local time, nine hour difference from Colorado. He was looking good considering he was coming from California. The mountain just poked her head out for us to see and its just beautiful.

Wonderful to be back here. My buddy, Theophil, came off the mountain today and he is going to be our guide on Tuesday.

Thanks for the messages always wonderful.

Keep Climbing,

Sean Swaner

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I have to admit that I find myself in a position that I never would have imagined. I'm a 15 year cancer survivor and have dedicated my life to giving back to the cancer community in every way possible. As most of you know, the CancerClimber Association (CCA) was contacted many months ago by a young 14 year old boy named Jonathan White. CCA was founded by Sean Swarner, a two time cancer survivor who became the first survivor to summit Mt. Everest.

Needless to say, when we heard about this 14 year old who contacted us, we immediately wanted to do everything we could to help. We are not a large organization by any means, but were truly moved by the passion and determination of this young survivor. We could relate to this story on many different levels; Sean and I were both diagnosed in our teens while Gena, a survivor herself could not imagine someone enduring such hardship at a young age. We just really wanted to give hope to a dying boy.

I am writing this because for lack of a better word we have all been duped to one degree or another. I spoke to Jonathan on the phone and offered our support. I sent him a copy of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book that both Sean and I contributed our stories to. My mother, who knew what it was like to have a son go through cancer at a young age, sent him birthday cards to tell him to be strong and that she would pray for him. I am certain many of you have stories similar to this. When I spoke to Jonathan on the phone, it truly sounded like an ill 14 year old boy who was battling brain cancer.

I really don't want to focus on the negative though. Does this person deserve to pay? Of course they do, we have all invested our hearts, tears, time, money, and passion into a person that doesn't even have cancer, but is clearly sick and needs some sort of help. It is important that we focus on the positive and not lose sight of what everyone's ultimate goal is. As most of you know, the cancer community is a tight knit group of people that will do whatever they can to help each other out. I like to think of it as a club that you never want to become a member of, but once you do, you find your best friends in the world. It is very hard to articulate, but cancer changes the way you look at everything. We stick together and have a unique outlook on life and truly want to help others going through the same thing. You can talk with someone who has been touched by cancer and there is that immediate bond; almost like family.

We need not focus on the actions of this one person, but truly embrace the good that others are doing. We certainly don't want to stop what we are doing because of one bad apple...if we did, survivors, fighters, advocates, and caregivers would fall through the cracks and that is not fair to anyone. Should we be more careful? Perhaps, but in this situation, we felt like we had the bases covered, we crossed our T's and dotted our I's as best as you can in this technological day. We confirmed with "dad" that we could speak to him.

The true purpose of this blog is that I don't want people to lose faith in the system and give up this fight. The internet is such a valuable tool in this effort to find a cure for cancer. It brings people together that otherwise would have never known each other existed. It allows us to spread messages of hope and lift spirits of people who would have thought of cancer as a death sentence. It allows vital information to pass into people's hand such as clinical trials, treatments, and insurance information. It connects survivors, fighters, advocates, and caregivers from around the world. Cancer kills 8 million people worldwide! That is more deaths than AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria combined. This year alone, 12 million people will hear the words "you have cancer". 1500 Americans die each day from cancer and cancer is the #1 killer of Americans under the age of 85.

As you can see, this is bigger than a sick, fictitious person named Jonathan White. So please, I know this has been a rough couple of days for all of us, but it is important for us to stay positive and continue to do our parts. We must come together in these difficult times, stick together, and get the job done. We have a lot of work to do and we can't accomplish it without a united front. Cancer is a global epidemic and together we can end the stigma attached to this disease. As Lance Armstrong has said these past few weeks, IT'S ABOUT YOU. We will all get through this together and if we continue to do our parts, we will give hope through inspiration and help find a cure for this disease.

LiveSTRONG, Be Well, and Keep Climbing!

Joe Schneider
CancerClimber Association

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Live, Love, Laugh, Learn, Lead by Example." --Sean Swarner

So over the weekend I went up into the hills to do some skiing, but this time it wasn’t just for fun. It was for a group called Rise Above It (http://www.raibenefit.org/) and a friend of mine named Ryan O’Donoghue who took a group from Denver Children’s Hospital up to put in some runs up and down the slopes at Vail. Another friend of mine and I headed out of Boulder at 6:30AM and hit the road for our drive up. Not much more than 1.5 hours later we were at the parking lot getting dressed to play on the slopes. Stepping on the snow was…. uh…. interesting. Skiing down the first run was even more interesting. If you could take the entire mountain and dump runny, but lumpy mash potatoes on it, then freeze those taters…you got the snow we were skiing on. Heading to the back bowls before the kids got there, Bryce and I were fooling around on the mountain and he started sliding off the catwalk (the flatter ground that helps traverse the mountain) and ended up shooting down the frozen taters into a tree. I wish I had a camera because when he finally stopped, he was a true tree hugger.

After putting in a few runs on the ice skating rink and sliding back to Vail Village, the rest of the group got into town and we were all getting ready to head up. Ryan did some introductions, explained the day, and we all headed up the lift. This time around, about 45 min after Bryce and I got back to the base, the heat melted the frozen taters into mashed potatoes and the snow was slushy, but a lot of fun. In fact it was so heavy and thick that I dropped into a run and somehow ended up falling straight down the mountain head over feet. I popped up and was fine, but while Bryce was laughing at me he tumbled and did the same thing. Can we say “karma?” haha.

We put in a few runs and then all got together for lunch at the top of the mountain. I floated around and chatted with as many people as I could and we all shared stories about cancer, what we went through, etc. Ryan played my ESPN piece (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVQGAg-k4bw) on the bus while they were heading up, so everyone there knew my story and it was a true pleasure answering all their questions about Everest, the mountains, and my cancers.

What really hit me was while I was talking to everyone (all ages really) is that they’re a lot like everyone I know with cancer, or anyone who’s had cancer. They all like to enjoy life and they all had a smiles on their faces. They all know what life is about and they all enjoy every moment. As well, they’re not afraid to talk about scars, treatments, pains of cancer, etc. We all shared stories of pain, of bone marrow treatments, swapped stories about scars, and even talked about how I was “old school” with my Hickman Catheter and the piece of plastic that’s in my chest still. I was told they now cut those out and don’t pull them out like they did when I was having mine removed. That would have been nice huh? No, “hold your breath while I yank this tube out of your chest.”

Anyhow, the main thing I noticed and what I wanted to share with everyone was that sometimes it’s great to be serious about everything and understand the meaning of life by getting deep into thought and emotion. Sometimes it’s great to not worry, not think, and just laugh. Just being yourself, not worrying about anything and being goofy. That’s one of the 5 “L’s” I live my life by: Live, Love, Laugh, Learn, Lead by example. You can’t take life too seriously sometimes, you have to laugh at yourself and have a good sense of humor. Enjoy the day…. Relax a little. Take some extra time to just laugh, spend time with loved ones, your friends, etc who you can share those moments with and truly treasure those good times.

Happy belated Easter everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!!

Keep Climbing!!

Sean Swarner
1st Cancer Survivor to Summit Everest
Hawaii Ironman
International Inspirational Speaker
Author: Keep Climbing

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Giving Back Without Spending a Dime by CCA President, Joe Schneider

I sit here tonight reading about friends celebrating Alive Days or Cancerversaries whatever you like to call them and am BLOWN away. I also see friends running/walking/swimming/jogging/cycling their way to a cure for cancer. I cannot help but me moved every time I read these. I am so proud of my friends that I sit her wishing I could do more. I want to do more to give back and make a difference.

As you can imagine, I am asked on a weekly basis to support a certain cause. I am not a wealthy man by any stretch of the imagination, but I have always given when I can. If it means giving up a coffee during the week or a dinner out with Meg...we would rather have it that way. We are both dedicated to making a difference in this world and will do whatever/whenever we can. That being said, we do struggle with not being able to do and/or donate more. We both said that if we ever won the lottery, we would pay off our debts, donate to charity and save enough so that we could give up our jobs and volunteer for a living.

We are aware of our financial limitations so we do everything we can to give back in other ways. For starters, Meg works her ass off at the American Cancer Society and she is training for a triathlon and fundraising for her mom who is battling stage 3c Ovarian cancer. I am not lucky enough to draw a paycheck for my cancer work, but I do volunteer and fundraise for LAF, Imerman Angels, and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I also do quite a bit of public speaking for LLS about my experience with cancer. I am also the president of the CancerClimber Association and actively spread the word about i[2]y, Vital Options, Ulman Fund, No Stigmas, St. Judes, Tigerlily Foundation, among a few others.

I am not stating that to impress you. I state that to challenge you. There are many ways we can give back to whatever it is that we are passionate about. It is not always about money. You can donate your time, talent and resources and make a difference in people's lives. In 2009, I wanted to challenge myself and give back in a new way. I wanted to get more involved in the lives of those who are currently battling cancer. One part selfish and a hundred parts altruistic. Perhaps I am trying to make up for time lost when I had a hard time talking about my cancer experience, but nevertheless, I have already improved by leaps and bounds...you know how much that cost me? Nothing.

Find your passion and find a way to give back. Donations are fantastic and a total necessity to fund a cure, but times are tough, if you can't give any money, dig deep and find a way to give back. It may mean more to the people you are talking to than a simple donation. LiveSTRONG, Be Well, and Keep Climbing!

Joe Schneider15 year Burkitt's NHL survivor
President, CancerClimber Association
Chicago LiveSTRONG Army Co-Leader (Melissa Wilhelm Rocks)
Imerman Angel
7 year LLS fundraiser and volunteer

Monday, March 2, 2009

"A Friendly Reminder that Life is Short" --Joe Schneider, CancerClimber President

So last Wednesday was a very interesting day. I awoke at 5am and hit the gym for an early morning workout. After the workout, I loaded up the car with our daughter Riley and our dog Kaily. I dropped Riley off with the Nanny, then headed to the office. I got to the office and fired up the computer. My daily ritual is to check my sports teams in the DC area, there was an article about the Orioles Spring training. I clicked on the link and then could not read it.

My eye sight became very blurry, I could read it, but it was definitely a struggle. Ok, no big deal.I closed my eyes thinking maybe I got some dust in them or something. Opened them to no avail. This was getting pretty scary. My vision got worse and I could no longer read anything. I quickly called my wife Meg to get a second opinion. I didn't want to think I was blowing it out of proportion, but rapid vision loss cannot be good. She took a cab from her work over as I could clearly not drive. By the time Meg got to my office, my vision had returned, but I had a developed a headache. Again, in the back of my mind I am thinking that I am A-OK and this is nothing serious. Of course in the front of my mind are all the stories I have heard about brain cancer and the symptoms. This is not to say I was overreacting and automatically assumed I had cancer, but as a now 15 year cancer survivor, it will always be a part of my thought process when certain symptoms come up.

Meg drove us home to drop off Kaily, then off to the ER. As I entered the ER, I got a little nauseous and almost threw up.another symptom. I was admitted fairly quickly due to my history. The nurse came in and took some blood then they took me in a wheel chair (protocol) to the CT machine. They did a full CT scan of my head to check for any abnormalities. After a quick 5 minutes, I was done..guess I don't have a very big brain(grin). They said I would have to wait 30 minutes for the results. 25 minutes later the doctor came in and told me I was Ok. There were no tumors or abnormalities in my brain. It turns out I had a migraine that was preceded by an aura. An aura occurs in less than 15% of migraines and can cause double vision, tunnel vision and even hallucinations. Migraines do not have to be severe headaches as I just learned. Needless to say, I was very relieved to have had a migraine!

How would I have reacted had they seen a tumor or I had been told I had cancer again? Not sure, but I do know that if I was ever diagnosed again, I would fight until there was no more fight left in my body. Life is short, I just received a friendly reminder to make the most of our time here!

Keep Climbing!

Joe Schneider

Friday, February 20, 2009

"I will survive. My cancer will not."

It's always in my face... this whole "cancer thing." People get in touch with me all the time and share their cancer stories. They tell me about their personal struggles with the illness and how difficult they have it, how everyone has it. Every time I get emotional when I read those stories, when I talk to people, and when I visit them in the hospital. One thing that I cannot ever get over, that's absolutely incredible every time I hear from someone I know is battling well... is their Attitude. I can't stress how important attitude is while going through the cancer journey from being sick to well again. It changes your life. I just got an email from a fellow in CA who is battling cancer and read my book, (Keep Climbing). He told me that one line resonated with him more than anything and he started crying when he read it because he was looking for something simple, yet powerful to help him through: "I will survive. My cancer will not."

I tell people all the time that cancer is the worst thing that's ever happened to me, but it's also the best thing. It's taught me so much about life and made me realize it's not about having the best cars, the nicest house, the coolest clothing... it's about being true to yourself and doing the best you can every day of your life. You never know when cancer will strike. Make that ANYTHING... you never know when anything can hit you at a moment's notice. It could be cancer, it could be a car accident. Why do people constantly feel the need to prove themselves to others? Why do they always feel like they're not good enough? Why do people worry about stupid things in life when tomorrow might be their last day on earth? It probably won't be, but it could be. There's an old quote about life that goes something like this: "Live every day as though it's your last....because one day it will be." Maybe as we head into the weekend, we should all think about how lucky we are that we have our friends, we have our health, and we have so many things so many aren't fortunate enough to have. Let's all reflect on our lives, do some thinking about how lucky we truly are. Even though our society and our economy isn't exactly the greatest right now, we are all very lucky people and we should rejoice in the simple fact that we're alive.

Sean Swarner

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Back From Sundance Film Festival!

So Ben and I just got back from Park City, Utah where the Sundance Film Festival was being held. We took off early Sunday morning for a dinner later that day. Neither of us had flown Southwest before, and for those of you who haven't. it's a different experience all together. For starters, there are no assigned seats. You know how when you fly, you check in and you get something like, "12 A" or "23 C" right? Well with Southwest, you check in and you get a category letter and number with open seating. Sounds confusing right? Sounds like it would be a mad dash for seats and just a huge mess of people rushing to seats. Well, I'll tell you what. I've never seen a plane board so quickly before and have never seen a turn around time this fast! After sitting down, and while experiencing this whole new event, we were actually treated like human beings and not a number. The folks working for Southwest were incredibly nice as well, which is rare in the airline industry because they always get yelled at. Speaking of. I've never understood that if the plane is grounded because of weather or any other uncontrollable factor, why do people feel the need to yell at or blame the person behind the counter for the plane not taking off? I've always wanted to go up to them and say something like, "oh, I'm sorry. let me help you and turn this sun switch back on so we can take off because I know humans can control the weather." People. if the plane is grounded for a reason, I'd trust that reason and I'd rather be flying on a plane they know is safe and when they know the weather is good to fly through. I'm guessing they put that plane on the ground for safety reasons and I'd much rather catapult through space in a pressurized tin can that's safe. Anyhow.. We land in Salt Lake city, get a car and shoot up RT 80 to get to Park City where we almost die about 14 times because there are so so so many people and cars not paying attention to signs, other cars, other people, etc. It was actually pretty funny watching the entire circus move like a giant, well-rehearsed, controlled amoeba. We check into the hotel, Ben's room is ready, mine isn't so we put our stuff in his and head downtown to grab a bite to eat. We plop down in front of a TV and watch the early football game until heading back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. Dinner. was fantastic. Cat Cora was the chef and the dinner was for the premiere of Chris Rock's new movie "Good Hair" which was playing right after dinner. Unfortunately we didn't get tickets. anyhow, we're mingling and talking to people and tell everyone about the camp (www.cancerclimber.org) and about the Kilimanjaro climb and safari we're doing in August (info@cancerclimber.org if you're interested!!!) and drum up a lot of interest and a few people want to head over to Africa with us to see the "roof of Africa" and all its glory. After dessert was served, I walked over to chat with Chris and his wife Malaak. Both very wonderful people. She and I chatted about her projects and how we could work together on CancerClimber and the Africa safari and climb. Hopefully something will come out of it and we can work together. Jokingly I also said to Chris that if my movie ever comes out, he should play me. After dinner, we took the shuttle back home and headed into our rooms and crashed. We took off on Monday for home and that was about it! My buddy from LA sent me a text message at about 11:45 asking me if I wanted to go out because the parties started at midnight. I must be getting old or just not interested because I was already in bed and trying to sleep. Maybe I was just tired? Haha. Ok, I'm old. So one serious thing I do want to talk about, however, is while I was traveling I received some very disturbing news and have held in my emotions until now because it wouldn't be ok to cry at these events. Over the weekend the world lost an incredible person. Zach DeRidder lost his battle to cancer after a long struggle, but a wonderful life that reached into the hearts and souls of countless people. I was fortunate to be one of those people who knew him personally and had him affect my life. It's always incredibly sad when someone you care about passes away. It's a very difficult thing to deal with every time it happens and it happens all too often with people battling cancer and fighting for their lives. Zach was only 24 years old, but he knew what life was about. He knew that life was short. He believed in the power of hope and inspiration. He knew life was a blessing and always passionately lived in the moment. The world is a better place because of his smile and love for life and I am truly lucky to have met him and called him a friend. Zach . you always will be one of my heroes from whom I draw strength. I know you're up there looking down on us all smiling because you're no longer in pain, you're no longer suffering, but you're an example of how we should all live life. You will always and forever be remembered for your smile and your unrelenting personality to shine through. I can still see your goofy grin from ear to ear the moment you climbed to the top of the wall in Rochester. May you be an example to everyone reading this that we should all realize life is fragile and short. make the most of it. Keep Climbing!! Sean 1st Cancer Survivor to Summit Everest 7-Summits Hawaii Ironman International Inspirational Speaker Author: Keep Climbing www.seanswarner.com www.cancerclimber.org

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

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I reflect on this disease as we lose yet another amazing person in Zach Deridder www.zhope.org. I don't think this horrible disease gets the horrible credit it deserves.

Did you know that 1.4 million americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year? 560,000 americans will die this year from cancer, that is more than 1500 per day. To put that in perspective, that is a 9/11 every two days. 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed in their lifetime and cancer is the #1 killer of Americans under the age of 85. Globally, Cancer kills more people than AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis combined!

This could be your mother, brother, sister, cousin, son, daughter, father, co-worker, etc. I think it is safe to say that 100% of the population has been touched by cancer in one way or another. So why then does it not get the attention it deserves? Funding for the NIH, NCI and CDC (where I Was treated) has been stagnant for years. Stagnant research dollars when you take into consideration biomedical inflation means their purchasing power has decreased dramatically and research programs have been cut. For years, the response has been to take money from bad programs and put it into programs that work, but that has not even come close to fruition.

On this eve of MLK day and two days from this historic inauguration, I hope that the new administration will do what it takes to make cancer a national priority. We lose too many great people to this disease. Shoot, over one third of the 560,000 deaths in the US could be prevented with proper health care and screening. It is time to make cancer a national priority. Make sure your state representatives know the way you feel as well as your Congressmen. You have the power to rock the vote and let them know where you stand. There are 10 million cancer survivors in the US and a population of over 300 million. If HALF of those 18 and over made it their priority, can you imagine the impact?

Joe Schneider
CancerClimber Association

You were an inspiration to all of us Zach and you will be sorely missed. However, your strength will forever be remembered and used as an example to all. Thank you for all you have given us, we are truly honored to have known you.

Ben Metzker
CancerClimber Association

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Trip To NYC----

This Blog was posted late and should have been before the "Whats important blog" ----

So it's been a while since I've been able to actually update the blog. My apologies.  HOWEVER, for about a week I was driving through CO, KS, MS, IL, IA, and NE and then through CO again.   It was a fun trip, but with the 14 mpg was getting, I had to   stop every 3 hours. On top of that, I passed 61 cars and 17 semi trucks in ditches!! Ugh.

Let's start with NYC and the Today Show!!  Well I got into Newark and was picked up by the driver and taken to the hotel.  I got in pretty late and the Today Show was going to pick me up early in the morning.  I slept like a baby until that hotel wake-up call started ringing me out of my dream. Headed downstairs and met up with my buddy who lives in Hoboken?  Together we rode over to the NBC studios, met up with the folks from Catalyst PR (the media company for the Iron man), and headed into the green room.  While we were in there, we ate a pretty good spread of munchies such as muffins, carrots, juice, etc.   After we were in there for a bit, I had to run upstairs to make-up and get ready for the spot on TV.  Came back downstairs to one of the regulars on the show complaining about not having the right kind of cookies.  Jokingly, I said that my buddy ate them all, but he was just looked at and that person didn't break a smile.   Oh well.   After a few more min, they took me outside, wired me up with the mic, walked me up to the location, and bam. We were on TV talking about the race and about CancerClimber!   After the 10 secs (that's what it seemed like.  More like 3 min) I was on, I took off the mic, headed back inside, said some goodbyes to the other people I met, and my buddy and I headed back to the car.

Later that day, I headed over to another friend's house to watch the race on TV.  The Ironman was profiling me and CancerClimber on NBC and I was really really excited to see what they did.  When I first heard my name, I thought they just mispronounced "Swarner", but when they actually misspelled it, I was a little let down. Unfortunately, they only mentioned the first cancer not the second. They also missed the 14 days to live, the one lung, the coma for a year, Everest, 7-Summits, CancerClimber, etc.  I'm not sure why they did that, and I was a little confused.  Anyhow....  

After getting home, I hopped in my car to do the "tour de Midwest" for Christmas (speaking of, I hope everyone here reading this and everyone you share this with had an incredible holiday season!!). Finally I got home and am getting ready to head into the mountains for some training in the hills. I'm going to the Sundance Film Festival in Jan to give a talk to the producers, actors, and directors. Everyone keep your fingers crossed that someone picks it up and believes it’s a great story!!

Until then, I’m heading out right now for Audubon and some fun in the mountains.   Sounds like I'm heading to the South Pole Nov/Dec of 2009. Should be GREAT because we're also thinking about having people join us for the "last degree" where whoever wants to go could join me from the 89th parallel to the 90th (South Pole)!!  As well, we're looking for sponsors to help make the trip affordable!

On top of everything else that's going on, CancerClimber has some amazing news about our truck that's being developed.  We're meeting with some folks and getting things on paper to move forward and hit the ground running.  Visit www.cancerclimber.org  <> I’m talking about when I say "portable camp."    It's unreal!!!

Take care everyone and please share this blog with more people so we have countless people reading and even more (is that possible? Haha) sharing stories of hope to one   another as a family of survivors and patients!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Meaning of Life Through the Eyes of Joe Schneider

So I just got done feeding Riley and was inspired to write a little note. She has truly changed my life in a way that is difficult to articulate. For starters, I was never sure I could even be a father due to the massive amounts of chemotherapy. Unlike many survivors, I never had the opportunity to bank sperm as the doctors felt I needed to start treatment immediately.

As I look outside and see the snow fall, I can't help but be so thankful. I have been so lucky to experience so many different things that I am truly blessed. The way that Riley makes me feel when she smiles at me is unbelievable. I can be having the worst day in the world and come home and she just makes me melt...definitely Daddy's little girl. I have to imagine a lot of parents get frustrated with the sounds of their baby crying so loud that all of the neighbors can her them. For me, it is totally different...to me, her crying signifies life and everything it has to offer. I know it sounds weird, but it really does not bother me. I feel lucky to even have the opportunity to hear her cry and her screams are just part of life. Just now I was feeding her and her little hand grabbed a hold of my pinky and it just blew me away. Meg and I created her and she is such a joy. Others are not so lucky. We have 1.4 americans that are diagnosed with cancer each year and over 560,000 die each year from this disease in the US alone. Some of them won't be able to experience the same thing that I have. We have lots of work to do.

I know it sounds cliched, but we really have to live in the moment. Enjoy the baby screaming, the snow falling, the traffic jam, the touch of a child, and even the noisy neighbor upstairs (right now, haha). Seriously, life is too short to not enjoy every minute it has to offer. Is it easy? Hell no, we all get caught up in every day life, but it is moments like these that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I am lucky to have amazing friends, a fantastic wife, great in-laws, a loving family and of course Riley, our little miracle baby.

LiveSTRONG, Be well, and Keep Climbing!

Joe Schneider
CancerClimber Association

Allstate Agency Owner