Ohio 12-year-old meets his hero, Sean Swarner, the first cancer survivor to climb Mount Everest.
There is a mountain climber in Nathaniel Allen just itching to get out.
On Tuesday, the 12-year-old sixth-grader who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his right leg three years ago got to meet Sean Swarner, the first cancer survivor to climb Mount Everest.
Swarner, now an inspirational speaker, was visiting young cancer patients at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, where Nathaniel had undergone surgery to remove the tumor in his femur, returning six times for three- to five-day inpatient chemotherapy treatments.
The son of Laura and Jeff Allen of Plain Township, Nathaniel -- along with his father -- has carried on an e-mail correspondence with Swarner for 18 months. Father and son plan to accompany Swarner on a climb after three more reconstructive surgeries are completed.
“A nurse at the clinic saw something in National Geographic and e-mailed Sean about Nathaniel,” explained his mother.
Swarner is the co-founder and president of the CancerClimberokAssociation.
Since conquering the world’s highest mountain, he has gone on to the summit of Kilimanjaro, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Vinson Massif, Kosciusko and Denali/Mount McKinley, the highest peaks in Africa, Europe, South America, Antarctica, Australia and North America.
His father watched with pride as Nathaniel, a soft-spoken and lanky 4.0 student, talked with Swarner and pulled on a demonstration climbing suit.
Jeff Allen, clinical director of the Crisis Intervention and Recovery Center in Canton, said the three additional surgeries, the last to be performed when Nathaniel stops growing, follow the 13 operations his son already has endured at the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic since the initial diagnosis. Jeff took a year off to accompany Nathaniel during the surgeries and chemotherapy he required. This summer, they will travel to Baltimore, where another surgeon begins the process of lengthening the bone in the affected leg.
The plan is to remove the fibia from Nathaniel¹s lower leg and insert it as a dowel into a donor bone in his resectioned femur, which will be held in place with a titanium plate. Next, surgeons have to stem the growth plates in his left leg. Last, surgeons will put into place a stretching device that will extend the length of the affected leg by 1/25th of an inch daily until it has stretched approximately 2 inches.
But after the last surgery, Jeff and Nathaniel plan to tackle their first mountain with Swarner as their guide.
“He’s a great kid, very focused, and he really looks forward to doing this,” Jeff said. “After his surgery, we went to the pool every day in Lake Township. I went from carrying him in to him swimming 90 laps with me.”
Those workouts put him in good stead this year as a member of his YMCA swim team.
So which mountain does Nathaniel, sporting an orange cast on his arm from a basketball incident, have his sights set on climbing?
“Probably Mount McKinley.”
Contact Diana Rossetti at (330) 580-8322 or email@example.com.
MORE ON SEAN SWARNER
Willard native Swarner has beaten cancer twice in his 33 years. At 13, he was diagnosed with advanced state Hodgkin¹s disease. Doctors did not expect him to live beyond a few months. But he did, only to learn that, at age 15, a deadly cancerous tumor was growing in his chest wall.
The two weeks to live doctors gave him then have stretched to 18 years. When he climbed to the summit of Mount Everest, it was with only partial use of his lungs.
Today, he takes groups of people who have climbed the virtual mountains presented by cancer and challenges them with a real mountain.
“I’m incredibly grateful for the third life I have been given, and I’m committed to shouting from the rooftops of the world that there is hope and miracles up and down the sides of every mountain,” Swarner, now a Boulder, Colo., resident, explained.
He has been featured in publications, including Sports Illustrated, Outside magazine and Men’s Fitness, and has appeared on NBC and WUSA TV.