From Cancer Survivor to Olympic Champion

Last updated: March 2022

Editor's Note: This article was written during the 2022 Winter Olympics.

It's the second day of the Olympics and the Canada snowboarder, Max Parrot, got his first gold medal in slopestyle. He got a brown medal in the big air snowboard eight days later. When I cheered for him, I was surprised that he was a cancer survivor about three years ago.

I can't put a cancer survivor and an Olympic champion together. Even if he didn't have advanced cancer, chemo or radiation, etc. is not easily tolerated by a healthy person, nevertheless for an athlete at the competition of Olympic level. After I searched the website, I was impressed by Parrot's athletic achievement and how he handled himself during his cancer journey.

Parrot's remarkable cancer journey and athletic career

Max Parrot was born in 1994 and is a Canadian snowboarder. He is the reigning Olympic champion in slopestyle, winning one gold and one brown medal at the 2022 Winter Olympics. Parrot also won a silver in the event at the 2018 Winter Olympics. In addition, he has also won six gold medals at the Winter X Games and two gold medals at the Winter X Games Europe.1 He is a focused, goal-driven, and efficient athlete. He knows what he wants and he goes for it!

At the end of December 2018, Parrot was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma after discovering a lump on the back of his neck. As Parrot explains it, he had to "stop everything to fight." Parrot put away his snowboard to endure months of 12 rounds of grueling chemotherapy. He referred to it as the "hell" and "toughest months of my entire life." Finally, in July of 2019, Parrot announced that he was cancer-free. Almost immediately, he went back for training. A movie documented Parrot's harrowing journey of cancer.2

The impact of Parrot's story

Parrot is a hero in Canada. With television interviews worldwide, it seems "the road ahead is full of flowers." As I watched the movie, although the film is focused on Parrot's return to his sport, I could not help notice the gloomy chemo room and the familiar depressing face in the chemo room that was scared, resigned, and coerced. Although it was only a couple of seconds long, only I, a cancer patient, can understand what it feels like to go through the chemo room.

After he recovered from cancer, Parrot's return to the Olympics left a more profound impression than any of the athletes' stories I've heard before. Maybe I have the experience to know what it means to have cancer and cancer treatment, to endure the side effects, to fear the recurrence of cancer, especially to face the uncertain future even if cancer is cured or in remission. But, for Parrot to return to that high level of the Olympic Games, what kind of determination he has to have is unimaginable.

At the same time, we shouldn't neglect that science is developed at such an advanced level that cancer survivors can go back to compete in the Olympic Games and realize the dream.

An inspitation to everyone

Parrot inspires every person, young and old, healthy and sick. I can't help thinking that if he can compete in the Olympic Games, why can't I live with lung cancer and pursue my dream?

I also noticed that the Canadian athletes are very mindful that they inspire people. From my own experience, role models' roles can't be underestimated. Although I'm no athlete or celebrity, I know that I'm here to inspire and encourage lung cancer patients, especially the early diagnosed (lung) cancer patients. Although I might be too trivial, cancer patients can put our force together to become an "unstoppable torrent."

I think this is the true meaning of the Olympics Games.

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