Another mountain to climb for White

18:29, Jul 10 2014
Nick White
TO THE TOP: Five years after losing half his tongue to cancer, Nick White, seen here on the summit of Mt Taranaki, has been training to run up Mt Fuji, Japan’s highest peak.

Five years after half of his tongue was lost to cancer, Nick White is about to run up a mountain.

The Wellingtonian will be one of an elite field running up the slopes of Mt Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan, on July 25.

A keen runner, White says he is in the best shape of his life. "Which is pretty freaky."

In 2009, White was diagnosed with aggressive head and neck cancer. He was given long odds - a 50/50 chance he would live for five years.

He would have died were it not for pioneering surgery by Professor Swee Tan at Hutt Hospital.

The right side of his tongue and 34 lymph glands in his neck were removed, then the tongue rebuilt using muscle from his arm.


Intensive radiotherapy and chemotherapy followed.

It was a long and painful road back to health but he has entered the Fuji Summit Run to raise money for Tan's Gillies McIndoe Research Institute.

He wants to raise $1 for every metre of the climb to the 3776m summit and has already raised $2648 through a givealittle page.

The lingering effects of treatment make running slightly more complicated for White than other competitors.

For example, he can't suck liquid through a straw or out of a CamelBak, a water carrying device beloved by runners. Instead, he sticks with traditional water bottles.

"It's hard for me to speak and once I lose a bit of energy it's even harder, that's for sure."

In the run-up to the event - he flies out on July 20 - he has been running in an oxygen mask to simulate the lower oxygen levels the higher he climbs the mountain. It's a tough race with strict time limits. Starting from the city hall of nearby Fujiyoshida at 7am, runners must reach the summit, 21km away, by 11.30am.

"The time limit is really challenging - anything over that and you're disqualified," White says. "If I can get to the summit, great."

The Dominion Post