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The Glass Half Full

The story of a cancer survivor

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What do you have to go through to realize that life is not about the glass being half empty, it is about it being half full? What does it take for a normal guy, a happy guy, a guy who seems to have it all, to realize that his life is just a moment in time? And that, in a moment, everything can change?

This is the story of one man's journey about what it takes to go from a glass at rock bottom empty to overflowing.

He was just a guy... a guy named Jack. We have all heard the story a million times; he was the guy that moved to Whistler to ski. Skiing was his life. His motto was to live life large and in the '90s that was exactly what he did. Jack was everyone's friend.

Of course he was. He was the man behind the Savage Beagle bar for over 10 years. Back then you were everyone's friend if you were a bartender.

Everyone loved Jack... The boys loved Jack, he was their bro. He skied hard and partied harder, he got the boys in the back door and he always poured them the Jagermeister (or Vitamin J as he liked to call it) and kept them supplied with brewskis. Plus, he was the connector. He knew all the ladies, so he usually got his bros set up in that department as well.

Now the ladies...hmmm. They really loved Jack, and who could not? He had blonde hair, piercing blue eyes and he revered Cary Grant as the ultimate Casanova. He told all the ladies they were beautiful, stunning or gorgeous and they always received a kiss. He would usually make them a special vodka, melon liquor and cranberry martini. When they asked what it was called, he would ask them what their name was and tell them he named it after them.

Luckily for him... Susie, Sandy, Samantha, Kristi, Carla, Michelle... etc., never all came back and asked for their drink at the same time. Regardless, everyone woman always walked away from Jack feeling really good. He was charming.

After 10 years of being behind the wood, Jack traded in the lifestyle and late nights for his dream job. He had taken his love of skiing and became a Blackcomb ski patroller. As he put it, pouring Jager is fun and all, but it kinda makes it hard to throw bombs at six in the morning - and throwing bombs is way more fun than pouring Jager!

Even though he had retired from the bar, he couldn't walk into any establishment in town without receiving a free drink. Over the next few years he turned living the dream into his reality. He had it all - the house, the wife, the dog and the dream career. It was not totally perfect, there were a few glitches along the way - the wife became an "ex" for one and the dog got old, but for the most part, when he hit his 38th year, Jack was rocking. He still had a great home, a job he loved, an amazing group of friends and was living the single life - and living it large.

Then in a moment it all changed. What do you think about when you drive home from work? Are you thinking about what you want for dinner? Or what happened that day? Or where you are going to walk the dog? Or are you grooving to some tunes and thinking about what a great day you had on the hill? Well that was what Jack was thinking about when it all went black.

 

 

That is when the universe said, "You had a great day, a great life but you have no control...it is time for your lesson..."

 

 

The next thing he remembers is waking up with a splitting headache, wondering where the hell he was and being really hungry. (No surprise on that, being that Jack is always hungry.) But that was six days later.

Jack was told that he had been in a car accident, hit his head and would need to be in the hospital for a while. In actuality, what the rest of us knew, was that he had experienced a bleed on his brain which caused him to go unconscious (in simpler terms, he had a seizure) at the wheel. He then launched his car off the side of Highway 99 and through a hydro tower.

It was a miracle that he survived the accident, but little did we know that this was just the beginning. Jack fought the whole time because he wanted to live. He was in an induced coma for five days and then he was in the ICU and the neuro ward for roughly another month, followed by rehabilitation at G.F. Strong. His recovery was miraculous and repeatedly amazed his doctors. He finally got to go home in June. But then the real battle started.

That summer it was determined that his brain bleed was being caused by a tumour. Brain surgery was scheduled for September 11. This started the endless questions. Why do young, healthy people get tumours? How does this happen? What caused the tumour? And the biggest one: was he going to be okay? Jack asked those questions to himself but his answer always was that yes, of course he would be okay!

So once again, Jack went back in the hospital and woke up with a splitting headache, a big bandage and a creepy hook scar on the side of his head. He and the boys thought the scar was cool. (Only guys think scares are cool, it made me want to be sick). Once again he rallied, pulled off a fast recovery and he was out of the hospital and back home no time. "So," he told himself. "It is done now, it is over, I can go back to my life."

 

 

But it wasn't to be. "Not yet," said the Universe. "You live life large so let's see if you can handle this and learn more..."

 

 

The surgery could only remove part of the tumour and that autumn the test results came back positive for brain cancer. Chemo and radiation was scheduled for November and December. That was when the battle got fierce. Jack rose to the challenge and inspired everyone around him to unite behind him. His family, girlfriend and friends did everything they could to keep Jack supported and in a positive frame of mind.

And, once again, his recovery was amazing. He lost his hair (but by then he did not have much to lose anyway...ha, ha!) but he looked great bald. He never got sick and he was still exercising. Have you ever heard of someone working out when they are having chemo and radiation? It was ridiculous, really; he was the invincible chemo machine. His ongoing joke to everyone was that he was "the healthiest-looking sick person you would ever see." Well, the positive mindset worked; by March of 2009 the remaining tumour was gone.

"Now it really is done," he told himself. "It is over, and I can go back to my life."

If only it were that simple.

 

 

"Not yet," said the Universe. "Let's see what else you can learn. What if we can get you to hit rock bottom? Let's see if we can empty your glass of life...let's see if you can get through this."

 

 

Two months later, in May 2009, a new tumour was found in a different part of his brain and it was already six centimetres in diameter. This tumour was located in a part of his brain that was inoperable.

That is the first time he asked his cancer doctor how long he had to live. The doctor's response was, "I have looked all over your body and even on the bottoms of your feet and I can't seem to find your expiry date."

Jack took that statement to heart. Was he ready to expire? Hell no, not yet! But, something had to change; he had to do something differently. Over that summer he researched and read everything he could about health. Not just physical, bodily health but emotional, spiritual and mental health as well. One book that his psychologist, also a cancer survivor, recommended to him was Getting Well Again by O. Carl Simonton, M.D. It discusses how stress and negative emotions can create disease in the physical body.

Jack started to look at what caused the stress in his life and examine how he had dealt with his emotions in the past. He decided to make some changes to relieve the negative impact of those things on his physical body.

This was a very interesting time in our friendship, being that for years I had always been the one who was trying every form of alternative food, vitamin, treatment and exercise. I remember Jack just patiently listening to me go on my rants about the latest and greatest herb, yoga posture or spiritual guru. But Jack is a practical math and science guy; everything has to be proven fact and no spiritual crap for him. I once got him to do yoga and his only stipulation was he would do it as long as I did not make him chant.

Personally, I think the only reason he agreed was so that he could watch all the girls bend over in tight pants.

So you can imagine my shock when we were having lunch one day and out of the blue he announces that his cancer doctor had given him a book to read about energy and how it can affect the health of the body. The book explained that if you fester in your negative energy or you are surrounded by other people's negative energy, that the body can become unbalanced and create disease. Then he announced that he had figured out that his brain tumours had grown from years of negative energy and emotional stress that he had not dealt with.

I remember being speechless and having to pick my jaw up off the table before I could respond:

"Well, thank god you finally figured that out because I have known that for years."

"Why did you not tell me?" he asked.

"I did, but you were not ready to hear it. But I guess now you are ready."

"I guess I am. I guess I'm ready to get rid of the negative shit," he responded.

Well, get rid of the shit he did, I don't really know what he actually did but something changed over those few months.

First he got worse; it was just before the Citta Challenge in the middle of June, that we all started to notice that he was deteriorating. He had become slower, more tired and he was pale. But he was still determined and somehow he managed to run eight kilometres that year.

But it took a toll on him, and it was that day that I thought for the first time that he might not make it. However, it was shortly after that when we had our talk about negative energy and from that day forward I never had that thought again - and I don't think he has either.

July is when his healing truly began. Every thought, every word, every moment became about the positive energy. The healing energy. Everyone participated in keeping all the energy around Jack positive.

That summer, his doctors increased his oral chemo and added steroids to his pill plan but the tumour was still growing. Finally his doctors and his family fought to have the experimental drug Avastin covered by his insurance company. This drug had been used in the U.S. for brain cancer but had never been used in B.C. until then and therefore was not covered. By fall, the insurance company agreed and Jack began his infusions of Avastin every two weeks. Within the first month the improvement was noticeable and after his first MRI it was reported that his tumour was shrinking.

By Christmas, his tumour was still shrinking and his positive outlook was increasing. By spring, he was still receiving his infusion and oral chemo but he no longer referred to himself as the "healthiest looking sick person" - he referred to himself as someone who was "once sick but now is just super healthy."

 

 

This is when the universe asked, "Well, you hit the bottom...now how full do you want your glass to be?"

 

 

It was at this time he was encouraged to contact a team called the "Brainiacs." They were a group of guys who were all surviving or had conquered brain cancer and they had formed a team for the two-day Ride to Conquer Cancer from Vancouver to Seattle. Jack joined their team and in a very short time raised over $11,000 for cancer research.

On June 16, 2010 Jack performed the canoe and bike portion of the Citta Challenge and three days later he took off on the two-day, 250-km Ride to Conquer Cancer. He never completed the ride, but withdrew with 50-km to go due to coldness and exhaustion. When I saw him get off the medical bus at the end of ride, in a state of exhaustion, I was so relieved that he had decided to withdraw. All he said was "Swallowing your pride tastes terrible."

When I asked him months later about how he felt about not completing the race, he answered, "Having cancer had nothing to do with me deciding to withdraw - I just realized that I didn't have to kill myself in order to satisfy my ego."

Wow, I thought, this from a guy who was once all about the ego. When I look back at the ride, something in Jack grew.

Maybe it was his positivity or maybe it was when his glass really started to fill up, because over the summer of 2010 we all watched Jack come back. His quick wit had returned, his humour was off the charts, but he was different. Different in a good way. He did not let anything bring him down and he let any negative energy roll on right past him. He just does not take it on anymore. Nothing sticks to him.

I am not sure how he does it and I don't think even he knows. But somehow he just doesn't let the negative shit get to him; maybe he just chooses not to let it bug him.

By September 2010, the Universe said, "If we give you a chance how full can you get your glass?"

The size of the tumour had decreased in size to a pin prick and the doctors decided to give Jack's body a break. They took him off his oral chemo and the Avastin infusions. Then what happened?

Well, it is Jack...and he likes to live life large, so he just kept topping up that glass as it got fuller and fuller.

December 8, 2010 was the magical day! That was the day I saw my best buddy's glass totally overflow. That was the day when the Universe said you have lived and learned....now you can totally live life large!

That was the day Jack was told that the only thing in his head was some scar tissue and his brain. That was the day when he realized he had been given a second kick at the can! This time he vowed not to miss a single moment and to be grateful for every moment in time.

Sometimes you get to experience the life of just a guy, a guy named Jack, and you realize that a moment is a piece of time that you can never get back, that a moment can change everything and that each moment is something that should never be taken for granted. Sometimes it takes just a guy to make you realize that there is no time for negative shit in your life because that is just wasted moments.  It is certain moments that make you realize that your life should not be looked at as the glass half full or empty; it is a glass that should always overflow. And in this guy's case it is on permanent overflow!

Cheers to Jack Hurtubise for living life large!

 

Note: As of Jan 7 th 2011 Jack Hurtubise is cancer free, he will be participating in the 2011 Ride to Conquer Cancer, please visit his donation page at http://www.conquercancer.ca/site/TR/Events/Vancouver2011?px=2372922&pg=personal&fr_id=1371

Note: Marjie Martini will be releasing her first novel "In Search of Captain Tim" in the spring of 2011, you can visit her fan page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/In-Search-of-Captain-Tim/162782057082530?ref=ts

 

 

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