"It's not like I'm leaving a legacy like Terry Fox, but I'd like to live my life in that honour."
- Matt Cook
Today I found out Matt Cook passed away. But, he did not lose his fight against cancer. Because Matt fought it, he won.
He didn't just win the fight for himself either; he won it for other people too.
He was only 22 years old, but his life was so much bigger than that.
When I first met Matt, I wondered what could have happened in this guy's life to make him smile so much? He had already beaten cancer - twice. I didn't even know he was still sick. But he was, and infected me quickly - with positivity.
When I next saw Matt, he came out to see me at a launch party for my new hockey Web site. (A few days after Matt would be diagnosed as terminal.)
I remember remarking to him that I've never met anyone who smiles as much as he does.
Every time I would look over at him, he'd be smiling. Actually, I think I kept looking over to Matt, because his smile kept drawing me in.
We spoke, and I probably told him countless times how "amazing" he was. Oh, I used that word with Matt way too much that night - but not enough either.
What do you say to someone who does something so incredible that you are in awe? That night, I didn't know what to say, except "amazing." I had to gather my thoughts. I had to write his story. Everybody had to know about Matt.
"For sure you can do a story on me," he said, "Thank you."
Later that month, my world came crashing down on me. I was in a car accident. A woman driving an SUV, ran a red and hit me. I was very lucky. Things could have been much worse.
Unbelievably, that accident wasn't enough to stop me from taking my life for granted.
Around that time, I found out from a mutual friend that Matt was now diagnosed as terminal, with a prognosis of three to six months.
That was enough.
Everything in my life became, "But Matt would... But Matt would... But Matt would..."
Matt soon contacted me.
"Hey, sorry for getting in touch so late. Health has taken a bit of a turn for the worse. I'm back home in Edmonton now. Just hanging out, hoping to heal up. Doesn't look like I'll be finishing the hockey season though! Which sucks. Anyways hope all is well and if you'd still like to do a story let me know."
I wanted to do a story more than ever. Still recovering from my accident, it was difficult though. And so I found myself speaking those words again, "But Matt would..."
Understandably, it was difficult to reach Matt for an interview.
One day, I concluded that the story was not going to happen.
Matt called me about three minutes after I came to that conclusion. Oh, but, Matt would...
He apologized for not contacting me sooner. He had a bad cough. His lungs were failing. I believe it was a very Canadian -38 degrees Celsius that day in Edmonton, and he just returned home from Christmas shopping.
We spoke for about 45 minutes.
I had recorded a remarkable story, but still recovering from the accident couldn't write one word of it.
But I had to.
When one person impacts you the way Matt Cook impacted me, you cannot hold that in.
I just wanted everyone to feel touched by Matt, the same way he touched me.
Matt loved life and despite his battle with cancer, he felt he had a very good and lucky life.
This positivity in the face of the harshest and most vile negativity impacted everyone around him.
He fought for his life and for his family. He fought for cancer victims and cancer survivors. He fought for you and he fought for me.
“You really start to re-evaluate your life,” Matt said of his cancer battle. “But don’t wait to be told you have three to six months left before you start living life. Too many people are caught up with the daily grind and they don’t bother challenging themselves or putting themselves outside of their comfort zone. Just be optimistic and set goals.
“And whether or not you achieve them, you’ve put yourself out there and given yourself the opportunity to achieve something you’re probably capable of.”
FLM: Fight like Matt.