The first person with cancer to climb Mount Everest has died
Tributes have been paid to an inspirational Sheffielder who last year became the first person with cancer to scale Mount Everest. Sheffield Wednesday fan Ian Toothill climbed the world’s highest peak last June after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, and fulfilled his pledge to plant a Sheffield United flag at the summit to boost his fundraising total.
The personal trainer, from Sheffield’s Manor estate, took on the epic challenge aged 47 after being given just months to live when the bowel cancer he thought he had beaten returned. He said he wanted to prove ‘anything is possible’. His friend Richard Barker tweeted this afternoon to announce Mr Toothill had passed away today, aged 48. He thanked Blades and Owls fans, among others, for their support. People have been quick to pay their respects this evening, with his death uniting the football world in grief.
Tributes are flooding in on Twitter, where Mr Toothill has been hailed as a ‘true inspiration’, a ‘magnificent’ human being and a ‘real hero’.
Gary Ogden tweeted: “What a guy. Terribly sad news. You brought rivals together through your determination. RIP Ian.” The Blades Base twitter account summed up the sentiment, writing: “RIP a real Blades legend, despite being an Owl. People like Ian bridged the gap between #swfc and #sufc. You will be missed by all, @IanToothill #twitterblades #WAWAW.”
Mr Toothill, who had lived in London since moving south more than 20 years ago, raised more than £30,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support through his incredible achievement. Although he had climbed in the Himalayas before and walked solo across Iceland, Mount Everest was easily the biggest challenge he faced. He said it had been his dream since he was a child and an adventure he was determined to tick off his bucket list. Writing before he set off, he said: “I’m determined to prove anything is possible, no matter what your situation.
“I also want to inspire anyone living with cancer to go and do that special thing they’ve always wanted to do. Of course, that thing might not be climbing a mountain. It could be finishing that book you’ve always said you would write, learning a new skill, or taking that dream trip.” After reaching the summit, he modestly tweeted: “Nothing to see here, just some cancer dude [Sheffield Wednesday] fan on the summit of Everest with a @SUFC flag.” Mr Toothill spent around a decade in the Army after leaving school, after which he moved to London and worked as a fitness coach. Mr Barker, who had known him since they were at Hurlfield School together, said he was a ‘proper nice guy, and a proper laugh’. He told how once his old school friend set his mind on something there was no turning back.
“I remember we were sat in the pub in Gleadless one day after he’d been diagnosed what was on the bucket list,” he said. “When he turned to me and said ‘I might climb Everest’ I thought at first he was a lunatic, but then I saw the look in his eyes and I knew he was going to do it. “Failure wasn’t an option for him. When his insurance company reneged on a deal shortly before the climb he said ‘don’t worry, there’s always a way. I will sort it’, and, sure enough, he did. “He was a proper nice guy, and a proper laugh.”