Michael Crossland – Give Back
Raw, real and truly life-changing, Michael Crossland shares his harrowing account of surviving cancer as a baby, surviving a deadly treatment that was meant to cure him and the lessons he learned through it all.
I was diagnosed with with an incurable cancer of the central nervous system called neuroblastoma stage four.
Doctors said no chance of survival, take your boy home and allow him to live the next few months with his family, ’cause there’s nothing that we can do, But like everybody in this room, we all have choices, and the choices that we make each and every day can reshape and remold and redefine our future.
My mom asked one question, I don’t want to know what the chance of my son dying is. I just want to know what the chances are of my son surviving is?
The doctors gave me a 96% death rate. They said, go home. But my mom looked at my glass being 4% full and not 96% empty. But the next day, a doctor came in from America. He said, we’re trialing a drug, it’s called DTIC. Never been trialed on humans before, only on animals. We’re gonna trial it on 25 kids, and I truly believe that outside of love, hope is the most powerful word in the English dictionary.
This instilled hope into our lives. We started this drug 9 A.M., Tuesday morning. Within one month, 20 out of 25 kids had passed away. Within 90 days, 24 out of the 25 kids were dead. My mom, she would sit there and she would watch a doctor come in and zip up a body bag and wheel them out, because of the same drug that she chose to put in me. I said, people all around the world and I’m one of the lucky ones. But I never said I’m one of the lucky ones because I’m still alive. I said I’m one of the lucky ones because I wasn’t my mom. My mom had it tough. She had to make a choice to inject a drug into a child that has killed everybody that had ever taken it. Until one day, I was finally allowed to go home.
The doctor said to my mom, your son, he will never go to school, he will never play sport, he’ll be a housebound baby, and if he reaches his teenage years, it’ll be a miracle. But we believed in miracles. And my mom wanted my dreams to come true. When I was lying in the hospital, my mom bought me a Velcro glove and a Velcro ball. And she’d sit there at the end of the bed and she’d lob the ball to me. I’d catch it, and I’d throw it back. So she gets further and further away until eventually, I’d say to her, I have a dream, and that dream is to one day play baseball in America. And people laughed at me. Nobody in your life will tell you what you can do, they’ll only ever tell you what you can’t do.
My dream was to play baseball in America and I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure that’d happen. And there was a lot of hiccups along the way. I had my first heart attack when I was 12, I had glandular fever, I had bacterial meningitis. But people kept telling me I wouldn’t do it. So it made me work really hard to make sure I could do it.
I was lucky enough at the age of 17 to sign a contract to live in America and play baseball. But as you know, life is like a roller coaster. You can get to a pinnacle point in your life and it can get taken away from you in a heartbeat. At the age of 18, I was playing baseball in Phoenix, Arizona, I slid into a base at second, and I woke up three days later. And at the age of 18, I suffered my career-ending heart attack, and I was sent home. I was a depressed boy, I thought life wasn’t fair. And I would pray every night that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. I just wanted God to take me.
But I kept waking up every morning. Yet every time I’ve been knocked down, I always remember what my mom’s taught me. Son, it doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down. It’s about how many times you get back up that truly determines the quality of your life.
When I got home, I got a job in banking. This guy, day three, tall, old guy came in. He said to me, Michael, I’m Tom. I’m the CEO, let’s have a chat. I had no idea what CEO stood for, but I just went in there and listened. He said, Michael, where do you see yourself in five year’s time. I had no idea where I was gonna be in five year’s time, but my mom, she always told me, son, shoot for the moon, and if you miss, you’ll end up in the stars. So I said to him, Tom, in five year’s time, I’m gonna take your job, he hated me. Don’t ever say that to your boss, okay? They do not like you when you say that. But within twelve months, I was the youngest bank manager in Australia. Within two years, youngest area manager. Three years, youngest state manager. Within the fourth year of being with this company, I was the youngest national sales development manager for one of the largest companies in the world. At the age of 23, I had 600 staff, I had 120 banks around Australia and New Zealand, I made lots of money, I lived in a million-dollar house, I had a hundred-thousand-dollar sports car, all the money, suits and the Rolex, and I reported directly to my mate, Tom.
But can you imagine if we look at success, not about the materialistic possessions that we can take from this world, but rather what we can give back to this world that makes it a better place than what we found it. I was fortunate enough to be in a position to be able to do something for the most inspirational, the most influential, and the most loving person I’ve ever met, and that was my mom.
On June 16th, last year, I was lucky enough to put a pink ribbon on a door to a brand new home. I got a chance to buy my mom a brand new house. To be able to give back to someone that has sacrificed so much for me is, without a doubt, the greatest gift. It puts a smile on my face, knowing that I’ve been able to help her. And, when I was seven, I heard through the curtains, the doctor say to my mom, he will never go to sport, he will never play baseball, he will never, ever go to school, and if he reaches his teenage years, it’ll be a miracle. And my mom, she walked out, and I said to her, as if I didn’t hear, what did the doctor say? And she said, everything’s gonna be okay, son.
When I was 12, I had a heart attack, and the doctor said to my mom, he will never play sport again. She walked out, and I said, what did he say. And she said, everything’s gonna be okay, son. And earlier this year, I finally got a chance to return the favor.
Unfortunately, earlier this year, the doctors found four tumors in my throat. I’ve never seen my wife cry so much in all my life. The doctor said to me, Michael, we’re sorry, but tomorrow’s not guaranteed, you need to slow down. That’s one thing we all have in common. Because no one’s guaranteed.
I think that life is not about the amount of days that you live on this earth, but it’s about what you fit into those days that allows you to live a remarkable life. And I remember driving home, and she called me, my mom. And she said, Mike, what’d the doctor say? And I said to her, mom, everything’s gonna be okay.
Every one of us, every single day, is blessed with the air that we breathe, the opportunities that we have, and I challenge you every single day to get out of bed, and do something that your future self will be proud of.