My name is Josh Martin, and this is Badge of Awesome.
It was January 2008, and I was 27 years old. An annoying blurriness in my left eye finally convinced me to see an optometrist. It turned out that the insides of my eyeballs were bleeding. That can’t be good, I thought to myself.
Turns out I was right.
A blood test at my family doctor the following week revealed some
startling information. The normal amount of white blood cells in a healthy
adult male ranges between 4 and 11. Mine? 584.
Nope. Not good at all.
I had cancer. Chronic mylogenous leukemia to be exact. The doctors
gave me a 40 to 50 percent chance of surviving. Later I found out the odds
were more like 20 percent.
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.
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. It was also a reminder that we learn way more from tripping over our own feet than we ever possibly could from a textbook or classroom.
And that’s what Badge of Awesome is all about. It’s about life’s adventures and the lessons we can learn from them.
what’s on your list?
Inspired by my list, I’ve launched The Simple Pleasures Project on Badge of Awesome. We’re building a kick-ass collection of life’s amazing simple pleasures and experiential riches. Check them out and add your own items on the Simple Pleasures Project page!