At age 13, Sean Swarner was playing basketball with his friends when he collapsed—and was hastened by his mother to a doctor, who examined him and asked gently, “Do you know an oncologist?”
The boy had Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and was believed to have only 90 days to live. Surviving that illness against immense odds, he suffered the equivalent of being hit by lightning a second time when diagnosed at 16 with Askin’s sarcoma. Given 14 days to live, he became so ill he received last rites, but he survived that as well. He has since, with only one fully functioning lung, climbed all the Seven Summits and reached the South Pole. As he says in the trailer for the film “True North: The Sean Swarner Story,” a sports documentary premiering at different times on PBS this week, “I only have the North Pole left.”
A personable and genuine young man, Swarner is the author of the memoir Keep Climbing: How I Beat Cancer and Reached the Top of the World.
“True North” is directed by Tom Camaano.