To the Summit
Written by Nick Allen
Published by Massey University press in 2016
“To the Summit” is a novel that shows pure determination as well as physical and mental strength that all teenagers and adults can respect. The biography of Nick Allen tells his true life story of a strong young adult destined to push his physical limits in the outdoors. Nick then becomes wheelchair bound as he develops a severe case of Multiple Sclerosis which not only affects his everyday physical movement but becomes a mental challenge for him to overcome. Nick is continually knocked back by his disease which causes him to have many mental battles in his mind on why he should continue to live if he can’t do what he loves.
The story is very emotional and heartfelt. As the reader it helped me to understand the restrictions that a disease can have on you not only physically but also mentally when you feel that nothing will ever be the same. Nick was a very fit individual in his youth biking up to 50 km in a day as well as competing in many different events. When he develops Multiple Sclerosis he struggles to even walk between classes at university. The idea of restriction is portrayed throughout the text as Nick struggles to cope with everyday movements. When Nick was younger these movements didn’t feel like a privilege, but once developing the disease something as simple as walking up 10 stairs feels like a massive accomplishment. At one point in the story Nick is late for a class but is restricted to making it on time as he says “I knew I could not run for more than a few meters”. I understand that being two minutes for a class was a major problem for Nick and someone with Multiple Sclerosis as the physical demand of having to be rushed into running could cause their body to collapse with fatigue. I think the story developed the idea of restriction strongly throughout the text and I imagined how it would impact my everyday activities. If I had Multiple Sclerosis riding my bike to get to school would not be possible as it would cause so much fatigue that I wouldn’t be able to cope with doing school work after. Also Multiple Sclerosis would prevent me from able to train for my sport as it would be too physically taxing for me to cope with anything else in my day.
This story made me think how privileged normal functioning humans are. When Nick starts to accept that he is going to have to live with Multiple Sclerosis he is determined to try climbing mountains and become physically fit again. He continually goes to the gym most days working tirelessly to make the smallest improvement. Many times he is knocked back and must rest for a week from pushing himself to achieve his goals. “My previous experience of gyms was not overly positive but knowing that it would help me to achieve my goals gave me a sense of drive” Nick was initially frightened of the idea of going to the gym knowing the negative impacts it could have on him. I respected the way he put these fears aside in order to achieve his goals knowing he could fail. This part of the story reminded me of the novel “Wonder” by R.J Palacio. This novel is about a young boy called Auggie with a facial disorder which makes him feel abnormal and unable to go out in public. Like Nick, Auggie has a strong drive to conquer his fears. He doesn’t care what other people think of what he is capable of and goes out and achieves his goals by joining a public school. I think this part of the novel highlights when things go wrong in our lives we think it is such a massive deal and nobody else has ever dealt with such a tough problem. But in reality there will always be someone worse off than you and we should enjoy and celebrate what we can do. I felt inspired to try new experiences such as joining a new sports team. It helped me realise it doesn’t matter what other people think of you so long as you try your best because you never know what you may be good at till you try.
I was able to see that Nick was a slightly privileged individual with the support he had from his family and the media. I feel Nicks’ parents were supportive of him, encouraging and funding him to overcome the challenges he faced. I can see he was lucky as he had support from others. Nicks parents not only paid for him to have mobility scooter but also were there to pick him up when he was too fatigued to drive home. They were constantly on hand for him to call on when he was feeling down. “ Dad had driven me to the scooter shop I could not handle driving in heavy Auckland traffic anymore. Nick is of NZ European descent, his family had enough money to be able to support the disease and the restrictions it had on Nick. This helped him be mobile and experience a semi-normal life.
It made me consider how someone from a poor background, in a third world country, with no family support could have coped developing Multiple Sclerosis. IThey would have faced even more challenges than Nick and would have struggled to achieve such high goals as he did. This made me question my own background as I am a privileged individual and supported by my family. If I was unlucky and developed such a restrictive disease I would have the support to help me through, but many individuals would not.
I have a strong sense of respect for Nick because he overcomes the mental battle of developing Multiple Sclerosis. He manages to get fitter and mobile in his everyday life. Nick sets a goal for himself to climb Island Peak at an assent of 6,189 m. He achieves it in four and a half hours, 3 hours faster than the average time.
I respected Nick as he went from being a fit young adult to being wheelchair bound. He develops a strong drive to overcome this disease. The message that is repeated throughout the text is that you can do anything. Nick shows us that nothing is too hard to prevent you from achieving goals. Even if you have to modify or develop new goals. With a bit of hard work and determination which is shown in this novel you can achieve what you put your mind too. I felt overjoyed at Nick’s success as he battled so hard to climb so many mountains. He thought about giving up many times but continued to push on. This determination gave me a sense of pride and made me realise people who have massive restrictions can motivate themselves to accomplish amazing achievements.
One idea that I found disturbing was the depression that Nick developed when he thought he could never live a happy life again. At one point Nick tries to commit suicide by almost crashing his car into a power pole but he manages to control his mind and pulls the car to safety. This made me feel very sad for Nick and anyone else coping with a disease that restricts their lifestyle as he couldn’t see the point in living any longer so why continue to go on. I thought he showed a strong sense of diligence to be able to look past the restrictions that he had and continue battling to accomplish his goals as well as show the world that anyone can overcome multiple sclerosis. In this scene where Nick is willing to take his life it taught me that it is important to ask for support and help when you need it. Nick was trying to cope with his mental battle with the disease on his own. This caused him to think that there was no way out other than through death but in reality when he asked for support from others around him they were willing to help work through the mental and physical challenges that Nick faced. I thought that many people in the 21st century could relate to this as we try to balance all of our own problems such as money, relationships and sports. I believe that many people are too scared to ask for support in case they get judged for it. For society to keep a healthy balanced life people need to get support when they need it. Somethings such as diseases and relationship problems can’t be dealt with on their own and could easily be fixed with some professional help.
I think that Nick did an amazing job telling his achievements through the Novel “To the Summit” it was captivating and made me really appreciate what I have in my everyday life. I would definitely recommend reading this novel as I feel everyone can learn something from it and develop some type of motivation to get out there and achieve their own goals.