Every time he looks in the mirror, Guy Dorchester is reminded of his younger brother, Eric, who passed away in April at age 23.
The reminder doesn’t come by way of the sibling resemblance shared by the two brothers. Rather, it’s from a scar on the elder Dorchester’s forehead, a souvenir of sorts from a trip the two took to Hawaii, during a reprieve from Eric’s intense chemotherapy schedule.
While relaxing poolside on the first day of their vacation, Eric ambushed Guy, pulling him into the swimming pool, where Guy cracked his head on the bottom of the pool. Though he ended up with 14 stitches – and strict orders to keep his head out of Hawaiian waters for the remainder of his trip – Guy recalls the story fondly, as it highlights not only his late brother’s sense of humour, but a perspective that Eric held steadfast throughout his battle.
“Whether it be a vicious scar on your face or the loss of a leg, it’s all superficial, and if you can’t laugh at yourself, you aren’t enjoying life to the fullest,” Guy told a crowd of 400 at Eric’s celebration of life May 2.
Eric was 18 and studying at the University of Victoria when he was first diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma in 2010 – the same cancer Canadian hero Terry Fox had. Two years later, doctors amputated Eric’s left leg above the knee, and he embarked on a rigorous rehabilitation program to regain his mobility.
Not only did he learn to walk again, the Earl Marriott grad was able to take part in his favourite activities, including snowboarding, wake boarding and rock climbing.
Featured in Peace Arch News in 2013, a year after his amputation, Eric said losing his limb “probably made me a better person.”
“I enjoy breaking barriers and pushing my limits,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m happy or accomplishing something unless I’m equal or better than the average person.”
His positive outlook and refusal to let limitations hold him back – qualities that Guy said he exhibited throughout his entire battle – are aspects of Eric’s legacy that his family hopes to carry on in his name.
“He was more active after his amputation than he was before,” Guy said. “He had a zest for life, and he inspired all those around him. He made people realize that nobody has really got it that bad – it’s all based on your perspective.”
Guy said he and his parents, Allison and Ted, are hoping to eventually team up with an organization that provides assistance to amputees wanting to take part in sports.
In the meantime, Guy is working on checking some things off of Eric’s ‘bucket list’ – a collection of 214 things his brother had hoped to complete – posthumously.
There were numerous items on the list that Eric was able to accomplish – flying in a helicopter, going whale watching, skeet shooting and ziplining, touring Alcatraz and appearing on the Jumbo-tron at a sporting event, to name a few.
However, some of the items near the top of Eric’s list – which he more often referred to by an R-rated term that rhymes with ‘bucket list’ – have been taken over by Guy in recent weeks.
Number four on the list was to place a $1,000 bet in Las Vegas. At Eric’s celebration of life, at Cascades Casino Resort, money was collected in order to place the $1,000 roulette wager on red.
“Eric got the last laugh, as it landed on black,” Guy chuckled. “We all had a cheer and a laugh, and the party continued on.”
Days later, Guy was able to check number three off Eric’s list – and face one of his greatest fears – when he went bungee jumping off a bridge in Whistler, a reflection of Eric’s philosophy of living life to its fullest.
“He didn’t allow his condition to demoralize or bring him down,” Guy recalls. “He was always demanding his release from the hospital so that he could get to the next house party, festival or family event.”
While Eric’s tenacity, keen wit and infectious sense of humour touched many in his short life, Guy hopes his brother’s spirit will continue to inspire others.
“His life stood for so much more than just fighting cancer,” Guy said. “It’s a reminder to enjoy every day, to embrace it, because you don’t know how many you’re going to have.”