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Beach Grit

Candid: I have Eighteen Months to Live!

Michael Kocher

by Michael Kocher

The surfer turned marine Michael Kocher is dying of spine cancer. But he ain't crying about it. Here's what he plans to do… 

“To die will be such a grand adventure”

– Peter Pan

As I’ve written on Beach Grit before, I have a cancer that attacks the spinal cord. Two weeks ago, I was told treatment included an 80 per cent chance of at least partial-paralysis below the waist, sexual function included.

No surfing, no snowboarding, no swimming, no wakeboarding, no running, no walking, no fucking, no living and thus, for me, no thank you.

They’re giving me eighteen to thirty months, give or take six months on either end. Every six months that I survive the chance I’ll die in the following six months increases exponentially.

One to three years to do everything I ever wanted to do in life. It’s a brutal fucking clock, but a clock of my own making and one hat is alienating me from my friends and family. Most people don’t understand the idea of living three years to the fullest being better than living another thirty in a chair.

The choice was made, no treatment. The choice is, and was, the right choice. The choice was made with all feelings, scenarios and people taken into consideration.

Yet I find myself, day after day, defending my choice, defending my existence as a free-thinking human being. So you ask what it’s like to live with a clock on your existence? It’s the most annoying and frustrating experience of my life.

Not from the dying, I’m content with that. But how needy everyone around you gets all of a sudden. They need reassurance, they need comfort, they need explanations and everyone wants to tell you how angry they are that you would rather die on your feet, or on a surfboard, as in my case it will be, than live in a chair. How angry they are that you won’t be there to watch children grow, etc. I’m not cruel. I love them all and know that this neediness also comes from a place of love, but I’m the one who’s dying. Why is it easiest for me to accept?

Right now, it’s completely surreal since I’m still stage one and thus don’t feel sick at all, except for the flare-ups of pain in my spine now and again. But that’s why baby Jesus invented Jack and Coke and Aleve.

I have big plans for the time I have left. I’ve done more in 31 years than most people will do their entire lives. I’ve been to 37 countries, 44 states, most of the Canadian provinces and Mexican States. I’ve had dolphins play with my feet while the sun sets huge over beautiful Pacific lines. I’ve watched the sun rise over 14,000 foot peaks with people I wouldn’t replace with anyone in the world and I’ve done it all by refusing to give in.

There’s more left to be done though, more to change, more to live, more to love, more to fuck, and more to ride.

So I’ll fuck, I’ll ride, and I’ll change and I’ll do all these things while caring for the needs of everyone around me because I’m a big fucking puppy and you gotta take care of your pack.

But while I’m doing that I’ll be looking forward to that last day that we’ll call the end of pain.

The end of pain is a good thing and will be a great day.