Calgary man who survived cancer and multiple strokes tells story of longboarding across Canada

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Calgary man who survived childhood cancer and multiple strokes tells story of longboarding across Canada
Watch: A Calgary man who survived childhood cancer and multiple strokes is hoping his story can inspire others. Brandon Harrison completed a longboarding journey across Canada that was interrupted when he suffered the third stroke of his teenage years. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports. – May 22, 2023

The story of Brandon’s Harrison’s life has been all about dodging death — both on a longboard and in hospitals.

When he was two, the Calgary man was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. After surgery, he was deemed cancer-free at age five, but when he was a 15-year-old high school student, he suffered a stroke which caused him to lose his vison for months.

A second stroke when he was 17 resulted in losing control of his life.

“I was forced to face my fear of death and that was only compounded when I had my second stroke two years later,” Harrison said on Saturday.

“I honestly didn’t think I was going to live to see 20, and when I got into that negative state, that’s what really started to drive my life into the ground.”

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Harrison was determined to achieve something before he died. So in 2013,  he decided to longboard across Canada in support of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and Coast To Coast Against Cancer Foundation.

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The experience changed his life, but part of that was winding up in a coma first on his 20th birthday

“I collapsed to the ground. I woke up — half-paralyzed — three days later in the Foothills Hospital,” Harrison said.

He later suffered another stroke..

“I spent 104 days in the hospital and then I spent another two or three years learning how to walk and bike and longboard, and just to move basically,” Harrison said.

Three years later, he picked up where he left off in Lake Louise but it was much harder on his body now.

“It was incredibly difficult,” Harrison said. “I could only do as much as my body would allow me because I hit a certain point of fatigue, and my body starts going into spasms.

“Some days I was able to go all day, and on some days I was in the wheelchair hardly able to move.”

Harrison has just published a book about his extraordinary life called Long for Life.

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“My biggest reason for writing a book was the hopes that it would help one person,” he said. “I’ve been told I would never achieve anything with my life.

“Here I am out of a wheelchair and no longer in braces or using a cane and a self-published author. Anything is really possible if you set your mind to it.”

Harrison endured road rash, wipeouts and miserable weeks of slogging through rain during the first several weeks of his longboarding journey.

“I had to constantly remind myself that this wasn’t just for me, but for other people, and all the other people that never got a second chance to make it after their cancer or stroke or something like that,” he said.

Harrison said it was the supportive Canadians he met along the way that continue to inspire him.

“It completely restored my faith in humanity,” he said.

“I was in such a dark place after my second stroke, and if it weren’t for the people in this country and everything that happened across the country, I can honestly say I wouldn’t be who I am today.”

Harrison self-published his 300-page novel through Friesen Press.

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