Since starting to snowboard at age 7, it had always been a dream of mine to one day travel out west and ride the fresh powder on Banff Springs. As my mother had travelled out west to ski the mountains earlier in her life, I heard stories of how beautiful the mountains and wildlife are in this particular part of Alberta. A trip to Banff didn’t seem possible at the time. My parents were paying for me to follow my dream as a baseball player, and it would have been too much to ask for, to travel out west.
I don’t know how to put this lightly, but the truth is, when I began chemotherapy treatment for Stage 4b Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2005 I thought I was going to die. Being in a hospital bed for weeks, having an endless amount of tests done on me, and then being hooked up to an IV to inject a foreign chemical into my blood stream to kill cancer cells. I was terrified. My loving aunt, also a nurse, advised me to visualize something positive, and I can vividly remember doing just that. I laid there in the hospital bed with my eyes closed, as the chemotherapy slowly entered my blood stream. In my mind, I saw myself on a snowboard going down a beautiful mountain, full of untouched snow. As I went down the mountain, I would imagine myself doing tricks that I once saw in video games I played all my life. Back flips, 180s, grinding on massive rails, all the tricks that I couldn’t actually do in real life, but no one was telling me what I could imagine. My mind was at ease and I was able to fall asleep. When I woke up, chemo treatment 1 of 6 was done. It became a routine, and each time I was a little less frightened because I started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
When a member of the Children’s Wish Foundation approached me, I couldn’t have been more excited about what I could possibly do. There were two main wishes that I had to decide between. Either spending a day with a professional baseball player who I idolized, or travelling out west and hitting the slopes in Banff, Alberta. It really wasn’t a difficult decision for me. I had my heart set on Banff. At the time, I thought my future was in baseball. I told myself that one day, I would be living the life of a Major League Baseball player. One day I would meet my idols. It was time to get away from everything, and experience something that I may never get the chance, or time to do again.
In January 2007, an article called Rowers with a cause had been published in the Toronto Star, about two brave and quite inspiring men named Glenn Edwards and John Williams. At the time, they had a dream of becoming the first pair to row across the Indian Ocean, a 6,400-kilometre journey. This ocean voyage was named in my honour, as the proceeds would go to the Children’s Wish Foundation. I was interviewed for this article, and when they asked why I love to snowboard I said: “I like the adrenaline – it gets you pumped up and helps clear your head. You get caught up in the moment.” Looking back on this, that’s exactly why I chose the trip to Banff. As I stood on the mountaintops, looking around, I was filled with a feeling of complete bliss. What a beautiful site. Then I’d strap up my bindings, get up, and head for the bottom of the hill listening to some of my favourite tunes. All of my worries left behind. It’s ironic that when I began visualizing this dream of mine, I was filled with complete fear and worry that my life would be short lived. Then, when I was on this mountain, and my dreams became a reality, I knew that it was over. The fight against cancer, the fight for my life was over. Not only was I blessed to have this dream fulfilled, but also blessed to share the experience with my family. They fought the battle with me and I couldn’t have done it without them.
This is why I am so grateful that the Children’s Wish Foundation allowed me to fulfill this dream. In the midst of a nightmare, they provided me with something positive to look forward to. This is only my story of how they have touched my life. There are thousands of stories, sick children with their own dreams whose lives have been touched by this organization.