There is this great song called “Lucky Man” by The Verve that reminds me of being in university and the fun crazy times we had back then. I still love that song and can flash back to many different nights and social events every time I hear it. Today I definitely feel like a lucky guy/man. You know this time of year is special… November is the month that I came to be, but also the month that I first entered the cancer community as a patient. Tomorrow, November 6th is the 6th anniversary of the day I always mention in my speeches… the day I was at a friend’s business reception and felt weak in my gut, I had the cold sweats and felt like I was going to be sick, then I turned around to lay my drink on the table behind me when I passed out.
I went to the ER that night and so began the next major challenge, the next major chapter of my life. Six years is a long time. It’s a major percentage of my life. In some respects I’m amazed that I’ve been in the cancer community for six years. So much has happened.
Started chemo the day before I turned 23 in 98, had a bunch of chemo at home, the best Xmas in 98 ever to that point, went to see the final game at Maple Leaf Gardens with my Dad in early 99, became that much more like my Dad on April 13, 99 with my first transplant. Spent three months in Toronto, that included taking in John Mellencamp in concert, came home and got damn sick. “Got to the gates of heaven, stopped, had a look in, saw there was no hockey being played, so I turned around and came back” as an uncle of mine described. I went home to my Mom’s house way earlier than expected after a month in the ICU on life-support and rebuilt, from the foundation. I started RealTime Cancer in 2000. RTC was born from the collision of some key factors, my ambition and determination meeting with my desire to do something to make things a little better. After our first year, of delivering our school program and learning a whole lot about what it is I actually wanted to do I relapsed just three months after my two year transplant anniversary, when my risk for relapsing was supposed to drop off incredibly. Thanks to the help of a key mentor I decided to take my second cancer challenge public. I went in hospital on July 22, 2001 and tv, radio and newspaper ads featuring my invitation to join my email group journey went out to the community. I had another shot of cells from my Dad in Ottawa… got to see Mario Lemieux play while I was there and came home after a month. I got back to work much earlier than expected, back in more schools than ever, and it was much easier than before as many more people knew about RTC. In October 2003 I was going through a strategic renewal process with RTC and approaching the second anniversary of my second transplant. This past year has been the most amazing of my life, I have taken RTC off the Rock and begun our quest to bring our message and organization across the country. But more importantly, I bought a house, got engaged and finally have arrived at a place where I have some significant level of comfort with the vision that I might live to be 80 and take Karen on the back of my bike across Canada.
When I flashback on the past six years some of those things above come to mind but some others I didn’t mention are more prominent. Jeff Cuff, Jeff Jones, Philip Nash, Aaron Bradbury and some other special people who aren’t here physically anymore, they come to mind. I remember my connection with them, which is a special one when you are young and diagnosed with cancer. I am blessed to have had those connections. They have enriched my life in a way I couldn’t have imagined. They, perhaps more than any other set of experiences, have helped me appreciate today and the fact that I’m still here to appreciate it.
I think about Paul Vincent, Soleil Labelle and Krista Hong with whom I’ve shared and are still sharing new experiences. They all have made a mark on my life and whether they know it or not they have provided reinforcement and support to me and the essential nature of the RTC vision.
When I first started out on this path, six years ago tomorrow, I truly felt, as much as I let myself feel, that I wasn’t going to let medical science determine if my experience was a win or a loss. And today I feel that way more than ever, but it is a different kind of feeling. It is an acceptance that I may never be in “the clear” or in a place where my risk for relapse drops off and I’m more content with that then ever before. You know miracles happen, amazing things happen when you believe. I’m not saying the believing will make the cancer go away… but I’d never say that it doesn’t either. Don’t stop believing, no matter what. Why would you? What’s the worst that can happen when you believe in what seems to be the impossible. I’ll tell you what bad happens, you keep this positive, hopeful energy inside you a little longer. That’s what happens, and no that’s not a bad thing. Not at all. Look around, the impossible is happening every day. Miracles happen, my life is a miracle and sometimes when I think about why I’m still here I think maybe it is primarily to remind people of that fact.
Numbers are numbers, stats are stats, in times of trail and through the process of acceptance and dealing they often provide some comfort to people. I have often used them as a source of motivation, especially when I find them stacked against me. It’s not like that anymore, things are different inside me these days. It’s taken a lot of work to get here and I know there’s more to be done, for sure, but things are good today and that’s where my focus lies, on today.
The fact that I’m here, have a life filled with love and support, the opportunity to make an impact and help others, that all means I’m not just a lucky guy, but perhaps the luckiest guy.
Live life. Love life.