What almost dying taught me about really living
The idea for Badge of Awesome really started in a hospital bed back in 2008. At age 27 I had been diagnosed with cancer – chronic mylogenous leukemia to be exact. Originally the doctors gave me a 40-50% chance of surviving. I was later told that the odds were more like 20%.
That March, I spent a month in Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, getting the crap kicked out of me by heavy-duty chemo. It sucked. But I was determined to do whatever was necessary to beat my cancer.
It started with a list.
At the top of a new page in the journal my friend Rachael had given me, I wrote the words “Reasons to Fight.” Then, while a fresh batch of chemicals poured into me through the IV in my chest, I proceeded to write. I listed anything and everything that came to mind about what makes life so awesome. The idea was to create something to keep me motivated during my treatment when things got tough.
Before the last drop of chemo emptied into my bloodstream, I had a list that was 118 items long. The items of the list ranged from the obvious like:
- #4: My Mom
- and #107: My friends
It also included a lot of life’s simple pleasures like:
- #40: Gin and tonics
- #92: Stepping into A/C from the heat
- and #58: A good fart
What didn’t make the cut was eye-opening as well. Nowhere on my list were things like TV, my car, clothes, working overtime or spending hours creeping people on Facebook.
Lying on what could very well have been my deathbed, I wasn’t wishing I had more time to sit on the couch or put in longer days at the office. I wanted to live so I could spend more time doing the things I love with the people I love.
Indeed, the list burst at the seams with experiences, not material stuff. Things like:
- #19: Hiking in the Fall
- #22: Tobogganing
- #34: Backpacking
- #35: Building a fire
- #46: Slow-dancing
- #62: Finishing an adventure race
- #66: Writing
- #77: Beach sunsets
- #79: Skinny-dipping
- #82: Summer parties
- #90: Good conversation
- #101: Giving a girl flowers
- #102: Watching shooting stars
- and #110: Wedding receptions
After a LOT of chemo, radiation and a bone marrow transplant, I’m thrilled to say that I’m now 100 per cent cancer-free. I learned a lot from my experience: about pursuing memories over material things; about living life to the fullest since nobody knows how much time they’ve got; and about how many awesome things there are to do in this world and the many things they have to teach us.
That’s what Badge of Awesome is all about. So put on your awesome pants and let’s get going.
Want to hear more of my story? Check out my interview for the fine folks at the Boiling Point podcast.