Legs and lungs burning, Tim Wigginton climbs upward, squinting into the sun and inhaling the cold, heady scent of evergreens. At the pinnacle, he takes a moment to revel in his achievement.
Then he begins to plan his next ascent.
“I’ve always loved mountains,” Tim says. “I like to be at the top—and then look down and see everything below.”
Tim acquired his tenacity and drive as a small boy, when faced with a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He says St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital provided him with the tools and inspiration to scale that mountain, and he’s never looked back.
Tim and his family arrived at St. Jude in 1977. Throughout chemotherapy and radiation treatments, his parents constantly emphasized the importance of a positive attitude, encouraging their son to focus on the future.
That optimism and determination extended to his professional life, where he achieved the position of sales director at a global health care company.
“Cancer made me the way I am,” he says. “I had to fight for my life at 10 years old. I experienced things that children never are supposed to go through. But as a result, if someone tells me I can’t do something, I say, ‘No, get out of my way. I’ll show you I can do it.’ I think that makes me want to climb a higher mountain the next time.”
Through the St. Jude LIFE long-term follow-up study, he helps the next generation of cancer survivors while learning to maintain his own health.
I had to fight for my life at 10 years old. I experienced things that children never are supposed to go through.
“The St. Jude LIFE study has educated me a lot,” says Tim, who keeps scrupulous records of medical screenings and makes a conscious effort to pursue a healthful lifestyle.
He continues to set lofty goals. Next up is Mt. Whitney, the highest summit in the contiguous U.S. And his long- term objective?
“I’m turning 50 years old, and you’ll have about 50 more out of me,” he says. “I told the doctor at St. Jude LIFE that I’m going to be the oldest living St. Jude survivor.”
From Promise, Spring 2017