BY CHRIS HUSSEY
It’s a rainy evening in downtown Kitchener, and Josh Martin is celebrating.
The 35-year-old man is standing at the front of a small room inside the Kitchener Public Library. The room is simple and unobtrusive. The white walls and grey chairs seem far more corporate than they should be for an event like this. There is a projector in the back that illuminates the wall beside him with the words, “More than a coin flip: five things cancer taught me about overcoming cancer.”
After gathering his thoughts, Martin looks up and introduces himself to the small audience in front of him. He has a calm, steady tone, and has a very easygoing demeanour. It feels less like a speaking event and more like a conversation with an old friend.
As holds his notes in his hand, he tells the group in front of him he is celebrating the seven-year anniversary of receiving his bone marrow transplant. Without hesitation, the room, filled with many of Martin’s friends, bursts into applause. Not long after, he abandons his notes and just talks.
Martin was diagnosed with leukemia in 2008, and spent the next eight months undergoing chemotherapy and radiation while his doctors looked for a bone marrow match. He does have seven siblings, but unfortunately none of them were a match, so his doctors had to turn to the international bone marrow registries. They eventually did find him a match – an anonymous donor in Europe. It was that donation that ended up saving his life.
But those eight months were not easy by any means. During his talk, he spoke about how the disease took a toll on him, both physically and mentally.
“I remember breaking down at one point and saying, ‘I can’t do this,’” he said.
While the physical impact the disease had on his body was hard enough, Martin said it was the psychological obstacles that were the hardest to handle.
“24/7 I was just thinking about being sick, and it was just a constant beehive in my head that I really struggled to keep control over,” he said.
During Martin’s presentation, the audience was transfixed, and it was clear he had connected with them in a profound way. George Nickerson, a retired teacher, said he was facing his own hardship when he discovered this event and Martin’s story resonated with him.
“As I rebounded from the loss of my wife of 31 years, I faced adversity and was looking for a path forward,” said Nickerson, who was one of the first people after the event to buy a signed copy of Martin’s book, Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in Balance from Life’s Absurd Moments.
Martin has done many talks like this, but this was the first time he had done this particular talk. He described the event as a trial run so he could iron it out in the hopes of delivering it to bigger audiences. In the future, he hopes to deliver these talks to younger audiences, particularly students.
Martin’s life has changed significantly since the bone marrow transplant seven years ago, and he always looks back at that day and uses it as inspiration for the work he does now.
“It’s one of my favourite times of the year,” Martin said. “It reminds me of how lucky I am to have gotten through that, and it’s like an annual reminder to make the most of the time I’ve got.”
For more information, visit Martin’s blog at www.badgeofawesome.com.