I've created this rather unusual belief that I'm indestructible and that I'm going to live until I'm 111 or 120 years old. Either one seems logical depending on the day. At 111, I will celebrate my one-hundred and eleventieth birthday just as Bilbo did in true Tolkien fashion. But then I think that in a few more years, I'll be able to witness the turning of another century, so I just should just go for 120.
The truth is that this is all foolish talk. I am clearly not indestructible, and there is no guarantee of tomorrow. Life doesn't follow your logical plan.
In September of 2013, my friend Alex Niles was diagnosed with Stage IV gastric cancer at the age of 30. It was one of those things that didn't make any sense. Alex was a tremendous athlete, a super smart dude and an incredibly nice, caring and healthy person. How could something like this happen?
Alex told me about the diagnosis in November 2013 and asked us to create a website to be his voice throughout his journey. He wanted something built quickly and simplistic for him to provide updates and promote positivity, health and nutrition. We built Smiles For Niles and were excited to see follow along.
Alex quickly needed a larger platform than the site we built him and had his articles published in the New York Times and the Huffington Post. He also went on to start a company CureWear to provide comfort for cancer patients during treatment and raised over $50,000 on Kickstarter. And he managed some leisure time in there as well with an amazing trip to Hawaii.
Alex passed away on Wednesday.
It hit me like a ton of bricks when I heard. He was such a strong person. I watched through our conversations and his updates as he fought and amazed his doctors every step along the way.
His journey was so inspiring and courageous. I wonder if I could be so strong. I feel like I would hide under a rock and not let anyone know I was there, but not Alex. He got out his megaphone and deeply impacted so many of us through his positivity and his smiles.
Alex is a reminder that even the strongest of us aren't indestructible and that we should never take anything for granted. One day at a time. But much more importantly, Alex showed us what it means to be courageous. He showed us how important it is to not let our situation impact our positive attitudes. And he showed us that even during the most difficult times, it is possible to make an incredible impact on the lives of everyone around you.
Thank you for everything you have taught us Alex.