We couldn’t wait to get back to Portland this year to attend the World Domination Summit (WDS), our favorite annual event that makes us laugh, cry and leaves us exhilarated to create, build, and love the world. This is the kind of gathering where weird is admired, the word “CAN’T” does not exist, and hugging human beings that you don’t even know, is the norm. This was our third time at the event, and we didn’t anticipate the joy and sorrow we would both experience this year.
On Thursday afternoon, we attended a meet-up for Live Your Legend – one of the many mini connection sessions within the 5-day #WDS2016 weekend. Chelsea Dinsmore was speaking at the event and thanked her community. These are people who challenged themselves to do and create the work they love and continue to inspire others to do the same.
As Chelsea lifted a glass for a toast to a roomful of entrepreneurs from around the world, I felt the vibration in my pocket from an incoming text. I reached for my phone, waiting for news from the hospital. It was probably an update. I was anticipating another family miracle – like the many miracles that occurred before.
This time, it wasn’t a miracle.
The text was from my mom. I read the news that my cousin Colin, my hero and the man that inspired me every day, had passed away. He just recently turned 40 years old.
I promptly left the room, unable to breathe by the tightness in my chest and blinded by the rush of tears in my eyes. This meet-up was a happy occasion. I didn’t want to spoil it for anyone in the room, so I went outside to reset.
Eight years ago, an important relationship in my life was transformed because of cancer.
In fact, I never would have made changes in my life, nor considered attending WDS initially, if it wasn’t for Colin.
Colin was my younger cousin. Even though our families were already close, his illness created a bond, because he made us all better human beings. He battled cancer starting at the age of 32, and he did so four times and for eight years with an unstoppable, positive attitude. For Colin, every day was precious. It was impossible not to admire his courage. Because of his approach, he made me a better person. I now approach my life differently because of Colin.
Colin fell in love with Cheryl, the love of his life. Five months into their relationship, his life of cancer began, yet Cheryl stood by him through it all.
Three years ago, their twin boys, Jack and Kai, were born, and Colin’s cancer returned for the third time. Even though he was sick from the effects of chemo, Colin would get up in the middle of the night to help with the boys when he felt strong enough to do so. Sadly, three months after, Colin suffered a major stroke due to the chemotherapy. For a period of time, he couldn’t speak, understand, read or write. He had global aphasia – a communication disorder. Over and over, he proved all the doctors wrong by overcoming cancer and he was equally determined to improve his speech. Anyone that knew him felt joy and sorrow when he was cancer-free, and when he faced another setback. His perseverance and courage were unbelievable as he kept on with his therapy.
I dropped everything and left Ecuador in the middle of our travels to see Colin back in Canada, (just nine weeks ago), to celebrate his 40th Birthday. Every time I visited him, I couldn’t believe how well his speech improved. It was a testament to how hard he worked on his therapy. When he was in a conversation, you would have no idea that he went through such an ordeal.
The last time I saw Colin, we were sitting on the patio at his parents’ home. He was joking about his new round of chemo and the fact that everyone at the Cancer Clinic knew him. So when he walked in, he was greeted like Norm (from the TV show Cheers!) walking into the bar… Colin!!!
I couldn’t even put into words the impact he had on my life, and his fearlessness and positivity are the reasons why family and friends coined him as “Our Hero.” I knew that we had eight additional years with him because of his optimistic, never-stop attitude. In fact, because of his inspiring “no-retreat-no-surrender” approach, he was given this Superman cape, with matching little ones for his two boys. It was the most appropriate attire for Colin.
When I received the news of his passing, I initially thought Troy and I should leave Portland and head home immediately. As we made plans to fly to Edmonton, Alberta, we found out that it would take a few more days for plans to be arranged, so we stayed at the WDS till the end. I am glad we did. The messages I heard within the last four days proved to be essential medicine for me, but many were strangely appropriate to deal with the news of Colin’s passing.
Some of the incredible words from the #WDS2016 speakers
Emily McDonnell – She shared her own story of cancer and how she used her experience to create a greeting card line designed for the relationships we really have as human beings. It is so damn hard to say the right things to a loved one with cancer – when the most important way is to just be there for them.
Chelsea Dinsmore – The Chief Inspiration Officer of Live your Legend, and our friend talked about how she lost her husband, Scott, in a natural tragedy while traveling, just shy of one year ago. Scott had such a significant impact on our lives too, so it was quite profound that the news of Colin was happening on the same weekend. She said, “How we do anything is how we do everything. We have a choice of focusing on what we do have, instead of what we don’t. And we are limitless; that the only limits we have are the limits we place on ourselves.”
Can Joy and Sorrow Co-Exist?
Emiliya Zhivotovskaya –She shared her views from her field of Positive Psychology.
Despite the tragic loss of her brother, she believes that joy and sorrow can definitely co-exist. I particularly love the reminder that we will rarely get answers to our “Why’s” in life — But we are always crafting the answers in our minds. Why do we waste so much energy with this?
According to Emiliya’s research,
- Our Thoughts Create Reality
- Change your Thoughts
- Change your Reality
The awesome people, we reconnected with and met this year – This is the most powerful part of the World Domination Summit. The open, inspiring people that want to overcome their own challenges and adversity in the world and help others in the process. These shared values – community and service – are consistent with attendees of the event.
I wasn’t fully present every single moment of WDS this year, but I cherished many amazing moments. I received the inspiration, love, and support I needed. The world lost an amazing human being, but I am honored and grateful the time we had, and for finding my own courage to make positive changes in my life. Thank you, Colin.
What inspires you to keep going, and staying joyful despite hardships?
We would love to hear your experience of joy and sorrow.
*Photos from World Domination Summit courtesy of Armosa Studios.