Max Parrot — Canadian professional snowboarder and Olympic Silver Medalist — is a true inspiration. Diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in late 2018, he had to learn how to balance his battle with cancer and his professional snowboarding career. Now he’s been cancer-free since July of 2019, back in competition — and an advocate for blood cancer patients ever since. Mediaplanet spoke with Max about his battle with cancer, and blood cancer awareness.
Why is it important to awareness for Hodgkin’s lymphoma?
Raising awareness is really important because it helps generate donations for further research. It’s crazy how the treatments have changed over the past 50–60 years — the chances of surviving increase every year and we won’t stop until we find a cure, because even a 99% chance of survival means a 1% chance of dying. We all deserve to live until we get old.
How do you raise awareness for the disease?
I’m a spokesperson of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Last year, I also pledged to give $1,000 to the society for every contest I win. I’m also about to release a documentary of my battle through cancer, which will hopefully inspire other patients to keep fighting and not give up, but will also help the public understand what it’s like to be touched by cancer and the importance of raising awareness.
As a professional snowboarder, how did your diagnosis affect your career?
It was a huge shock for me when I learned I had cancer because I’m young — I’m an athlete, I was feeling healthy, and didn’t have any major symptoms! It made me realize that it can happen to anyone. No one is immortal! That being said, I still think that having a healthy lifestyle made it easier.
The tough part for me to process mentally was that I’d never missed a single contest in my career. And then I was told by my doctor that I had to miss the whole season! It’s not like I have another 20 years of a professional career in front of me; one year off is a huge deal. But I decided I couldn’t avoid it, so I’d better work with the situation then against it!
How did you come to balance your career with Hodgkin’s lymphoma?
Within a couple weeks, my goal became to beat cancer as quick as possible and to get back on the scene right away! I was still snowboarding a little bit while receiving treatments, but I could only do two or three laps a day and really small tricks in the park before I was out of breath and my muscles were feeling super tired. I definitely couldn’t call that training! But each time it was a little getaway from the hospital and I felt great simply doing my passion again.
What resources helped you make informed decisions about your health? Why was this important?
I had a very supportive team around me who helped me make the best decisions. My doctor was aware of my goals, my sport psychologist helped me battle it out from the best mental position, and also supported me during my down days. My nutritionist helped understand what to eat during the chemotherapy treatments so I could recover faster. My gym coach made me do small exercises during the whole process so I still activated my body as much as possible. My family and friends were really supportive and helped me in any other way I needed. Everyone excels in what they do and a mix of everyone’s ideas and reflections helped me make the best decisions for what I was going through.
What wisdom from your own experience would you like to share for other people who have been diagnosed with cancer?
Surrounding yourself with a team is definitely important. Try to keep yourself active as much as you can, it’s good for the soul and will help with your rehabilitation afterwards. And the most common advice, but also the most important: don’t give up!
How has your life changes since becoming cancer-free?
I take more time for myself now. I enjoy the little moments way more than before. I live more in the present than in the future, which is a good thing! I’m a life-lover!