Wanderings – Live life like it matters…

Each year for the past six, Lionel Strang has walked the 100 kilometres from the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre to his home in Barrie, Ontario. It’s a fundraiser for what he calls “One More Year.” It’s also a celebration for him.

Eight years ago he was diagnosed with Stage Four cancer, was told he had less than a year to live, and that he should look at palliative care. Lionel didn’t want to do that because he is a pain in the butt and also, who wants to do that? Instead he volunteered to take part in a trial study at the hospital. Eight years later he is still here.

Lionel started counting the days on his social media. Day one, two, etc. Monday (August 29) he hit day 2,922!

Each day, he posts something online. While undergoing treatment he talked about how crappy (worst word I am allowed to use in print) his day was and how he felt.

In between procedures, he posted about his adventures. Sometimes he was off to a Blue Jays game and he would post about it. Or he’d tailgate at a Buffalo Bills game. There have been a few speeding ticket photos, his adventures in Florida at the Daytona 500, or misadventures with neighbours and their noisy leaf blowers posted. Sometimes posts are not PG-rated, and that’s okay too. He also likes to post who’s bought him lunch last. I have not had that honour yet. During the height of pandemic shutdowns he wrote about how his driving school business was suffering and how small businesses were ignored.

If there was a test, or a PET Scan or CT, we all follow along. And each year, a post about running shoes and his planned trip to walk the 100 km, and the progress along the way. He doesn’t walk it in one shot, rather he picks up where he left off the previous day. At the end there is a large party, cake, and a bunch of “One More Year” shirts.

Each year his walk raises thousands for the psycho-social clinic at PMCC, which deals with the mental health implications of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. He said he does this “because cancer fries your brain.” As usual with our health care system, the mental health aspects are the last to be addressed

I haven’t met Lionel in person, we’ve chatted a number of times online through the model railroad hobby. He is an accomplished model maker, former magazine editor, and hosts a podcast called A Modellers Life where he talks about trains, model trains, and the not-so boring interests of others. Modern communications can facilitate communities across vast areas of the world – that’s a good thing.

I don’t make it a habit of following stories about people’s struggles with cancer, but I follow Lionel’s because of his outlook and unwillingness to quit. That and he likes to stir the pot with off the wall comments. I enjoy ribbing him for his love of the Maple Leafs. From his first online post to the present, he closes ever post with “live life like it matters.” Wise words that many of us need to remember.