What almost dying taught me about really living
The idea for Badge of Awesome 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 per cent chance of surviving. I was later told that the odds were more like 20 per cent.
That March, I spent a month in Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, getting the crap kicked out of me by heavy-duty chemotherapy. 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 and so worth fighting for. The idea was to create something to keep me motivated during my treatment when things got tough.
And 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 obvious entries:
- #4: My Mom
- and #107: My friends
But it also included a lot of life’s simple pleasures like:
- #40: Gin and tonics
- #50: Freshly made beds
- and #58: A good fart
What didn’t make the cut was eye-opening as well. Nowhere on my list were things like the latest gadgets, expensive car or fancy clothes. Nor were things like working overtime, spending hours creeping people on Facebook or zoning out in front of the TV.
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
- #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.
As gruelling as it was, my experience with cancer taught me many things. It taught me the value of pursuing memories over material things. It reminded me of the many awesome adventures life has to offer and the importance of living life to the fullest . It showed me how much our personal experiences have to teach us.
In short, it highlighted the importance of making the most out of life — and ourselves. And that’s what Badge of Awesome is all about.