Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

August 23, 2013

For man, cancer diagnosis not end but beginning

EFFINGHAM — Stephen Swift was given 18 months to live after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. So what did he do? He embarked on a biking journey that has lasted 17 months.

Since setting out from his hometown of Springfield, Mass., Swift has traveled through Florida, Louisiana, Arizona, California, Washington, Idaho, Kansas and into Illinois, where he stopped in Effingham Monday.

“I’m going to stick my tongue out at Boston General when I get back to Massachusetts in November,” said Swift of Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was diagnosed.

Swift’s journey is a personal voyage to raise people’s awareness and perspective on cancer and the possibilities of life. Swift doesn’t agree with the practice of giving certain amounts of time when diagnosed with cancer.

“It makes people expect their own death, along with sitting around waiting for it,” he said.

Swift has already survived a type of bone cancer in 1998 and after seeing his 6-foot-7-inch, 300-pound father whittle down to 97 pounds from chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer, Swift decided to forgo traditional treatment. Although he has lost more than 100 pounds, Swift contends he is beating cancer through a change in diet and the journey he is taking. Swift has no sponsorship or specific cause except to “inspire others.”

“I live off the encouragement from others,” he said. “And I hope I can encourage others also.”

The journey has not been without its tribulations.

Swift spent three days lost in the desert when a road on a map turned into a dirt road near Tombstone, Ariz., he was nearly run over by a drunk driver in Kent, Wash., and his bicycle was stolen in San Diego while another was confiscated by security at a casino in Albuquerque, N.M..

Swift, who has no cellphone or email, said he has experienced vast goodwill along his trek. He has been given quarters at campgrounds and allowed to pitch his tent at hotels, often for very little charge, and almost always receives much love and respect from those he comes across.

“Life is so precious,” said Swift. “So is the love between people.”

The 53-year-old has been able to finance the trip through his construction and landscaping skills.

“I don’t want free stuff from people,” said Swift. “If you have to work, I’d rather take that.”

Swift admits there is one drawback to the journey.

“The only thing I don’t like is the loneliness,” lamented Swift, who lost his wife in a car accident in 2011.    

The deep-tanned traveler carries with him a notebook filled with messages from people he has met along the way. The notebook is filled with well wishes and words of wisdom.

Swift hopes his journey will pull someone from the depths of their own frustrations.

“If there can be a message of hope from my story,” he said. “then let it be so.”

Swift’s message is simple.

“You can still make the most of the life you have,” he said.

“Some people call this a pilgrimage, some people call it a journey,” said Swift. “I just call it a bike ride.”

Tony Huffman can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 138, or at tony.huffman@effinghamdailynews.com.

Text Only
Local News
  • McCarter.jpg Some lawmakers donate pay

    Illinois lawmakers restoring their pay after years of furlough days has prompted some state representatives to give back to their communities — a move some local lawmakers call a political one.

    July 27, 2014 3 Photos

  • Distance learning catching on in area

    In what appears to be a growing trend among rural school districts, a third area school district may join an existing academic cooperative.

    July 27, 2014

  • Joshua Robison.jpg Opinion: God doesn't care about party affiliation

    Reflecting on what we politely refer to in this country as “political discourse,” I am often struck by how convinced many people seem to be that their sides' specific policies and personalities are the only way to save us all from utter ruin.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ron W.jpg Opinion: Column break just that -- a break

    ‘Hey, Ron. You didn’t have a column this week. What’s the deal? It’s the reason I buy a paper on Thursdays.”

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Isom.jpg Opinion: It's about time

    Finally, someone else speaks up and it’s about time.
    I applaud Ron Worman and welcome him to take a seat on my bandwagon. His addressing the proliferation of signs of every description, virtually everywhere one looks, is a welcome additional voice — even though rare.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Feds: Effingham County was meeting place for underage sex tryst

    An Ohio man has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he traveled out of state to meet an underage person in Effingham County for sexual activity.

    July 25, 2014

  • Jail inmate attempts suicide

    An unscheduled cell check is credited for saving the life of an Effingham County Jail inmate who tried to hang himself early Thursday morning.

    July 25, 2014

  • Woman injured in Farina collision

    An accident on Washington Street sent one driver to the hospital Thursday.

    July 25, 2014

  • Driver crashes after being forced off road

    A driver crashed after being run off the road by a semi on Interstate 70.

    July 25, 2014

  • Rollover on I-70 sends one to hospital

    An accident on Interstate-70 sent one traveler to the hospital.

    July 25, 2014

AP Video

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.