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Beijing Olympian Max Parrot details cancer battle in candid documentary


“I just want to inspire people to know you can fight anything in life, any challenge,” Bromont snowboarder says of self-produced film.

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Three years after announcing he was battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma , and despite preparing for the coming Beijing Olympics, Bromont snowboarder Max Parrot believed the timing was perfect to launch his self-produced documentary.

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“It’s not an easy task to put yourself out in those hard moments, the toughest moments of my life,” Parrot, 27, recently said during a video conference from Aspen, Co., where he was competing in the X Games . “I want to help as many people as possible to keep fighting cancer and any challenges in life.

“I just want to inspire people to know you can fight anything in life, any challenge.”

MAX — Life as a Gold Medal , is an 85-minute documentary in which Parrot chronicles his battle with cancer, along with the resilience and mental fortitude required to overcome the daily challenges he faced.

In January 2019, barely a month after the diagnosis and on the eve of his six-month course of chemotherapy — 12 treatments, one every two weeks — Parrot decided to go public. In the midst of his nausea, vomiting and lack of energy that resulted in a drastic increase in his sleeping, Parrot lost only five pounds, although he eventually decided to shave his head because of the amount of hair loss.

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He also has lost his affinity for lattes and hasn’t had one for the last 2-1/2 years after always enjoying the beverage the morning of treatments.

While Parrot said he feared death, his initial concern was the future of his snowboarding career, because he was going to miss that entire season. Daily talks with a mental health coach helped deal with the stress and uncertainty.

“I didn’t know if the treatments would work, or how my body would react,” Parrot said. “There was a lot of unknown. We focused on the day-to-day battle and not the big picture. The more you make it through each day, the closer you get to the end.

“I’m so grateful for living every day and grateful for much more now. Before, I took my life and passion for granted.”

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Parrot, an eight-time X Games champion, is preparing for his third Olympics, believing he could be on the cusp of a gold medal after capturing silver in slopestyle at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.

Bromont snowboarder Max Parrot at a news conference in Montreal on May 9, 2019.
Bromont snowboarder Max Parrot at a news conference in Montreal on May 9, 2019. jpg

Canadian snowboarders captured four medals in 2018, and the team headed to Beijing is considered strong, especially in male slopestyle and big air, where Parrot, Repentigny’s Sébastien Toutant — the lone gold medallist — and Regina’s Mark McMorris all return for their third Olympics.

“Of course, my goal is to go for gold, but if I don’t get it I won’t have any regrets, because I did everything in my power,” Parrot said. “That was important, to not have any regrets, no matter the result.”

This time around, Parrot said his mindset has changed. He has evolved and matured from the 19-year-old who arrived in Sochi with no Olympic experience, virtually alone and consumed by the pressure and daunting odds. In Beijing, he’ll be surrounded by a strong team and has vowed he’ll appreciate the journey.

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Parrot believes he has become stronger physically and mentally after battling cancer; the disease in remission since July 2019.

“You get more mentally tough,” he said. “There are lots of lessons I can transfer to snowboarding. I see life differently. I take more time for myself and appreciate things more. I smile twice as much now and have learned to say no.”

Nonetheless, Parrot realizes the experience will be drastically altered because COVID-19 . The Chinese government has imposed strict testing conditions upon arrival, meaning all athletes will have restrictions placed upon them while limiting their social activity. On Friday, the Canadian Olympic Committee announced five of 246 members of its delegation are in COVID protocols

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“It’s crazy, but this is the new world we’re living in and you have to go with the flow,” Parrot said. “There won’t be any difference in how I compete, but it will be a different vibe and not that much fun. I’m just grateful we have the event during COVID. I’m positive about that. We’re definitely lucky to be here.”

Parrot has been the spokesperson the last three years for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLSC). The documentary is available on his website — maxparrot.com — and can be viewed in exchange for a donation. Parrot hopes to raise in the high six figures, a portion of which will be donated the LLSC.

“I never gave cancer a chance,” he said. “Even if I didn’t know whether the treatments would work.”

hzurkowsky@postmedia.com

twitter.com/HerbZurkowsky1

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