Dillon Hill’s best friend is dying.
Chris Betancourt has been by his side for most of his life. The two California residents met in the fourth grade and “naturally” became friends. Together, they faced Betancourt’s first leukemia diagnosis, then in 2014, his sister’s untimely death.
The difficulties brought the young friends even closer, Hill told Global News.
“We’re best friends and we do best friend things, but we’ve been through so much together as best friends that it’s a lot more than that.”
But now, Betancourt’s cancer is back and this time doctors say it’s likely fatal. His only chance of survival is a bone marrow transplant, but if no match is found, the 20-year-old has just one or two more years to live. And because Betancourt is Puerto Rican, his chances of finding a match are more difficult.
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“If he was European it would be way easier, and if he was African that would be very, very difficult,” Hill explains what doctors have said. “He is about in the middle of those two.”
Hill says finding a match is the priority right now, but in case that doesn’t happen, his main goal is to make Betancourt’s last years as fulfilling as possible — that’s why he dropped out of college.
“When Chris called me and told me that his cancer was back, that it was returning and that he was on a timeline this time, he told me that he was afraid of not being able to experience life,” he said.
“I wasn’t going to sit in a college classroom for the next two years as my friend died.”
Now, the two best friends are tackling Betancourt’s dreams together — some more serious than others. A bucket list posted on their website, mybestfriendlist.com, has 98 goals. Some quirky ones include: “Go to a buffet and eat until they tell me to leave,” “have a pillow fight with complete strangers,” and “ask a store for stuff they do not sell.”
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Hill explains a lot of the list is about giving his friend the experiences he never got while growing up with cancer.
“He never really had a chance to be a kid. He grew up very, very fast. A lot of things are kind of about just being a kid, just being a teenager.”
But there are other items that are more serious, more heartwarming: “help a homeless person get a job,” and “pay for someone’s college.”
Then there’s this one: “Find love before I die.”
It’s a lot to tackle, but they’ve already crossed a few items off the list. Last week, Betancourt helped a pilot fly a plane. They’ve also handed out food and water to the homeless. Next, Betancourt is looking forward to travelling, but the funds for that are tight.
That’s partly why the two started a Patreon campaign, allowing people to follow their journey and contribute funding the project. Hill explains that the money could potentially be used for something far more important — paying for Betancourt’s bone marrow treatment if he finds a match. The campaign has 133 patrons so far.
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But as they wait for paperwork to be completed so he can join the bone marrow registry, they are urging those following their story to sign up as donors so they can help others like Betancourt.
“We want to use his story, his strength, to inspire other people,” Hill says.