Phil O’Hara and Brad Crossley may not be biological siblings, but there’s no denying that they are related.
“My kids see his kids as cousins and vice versa,” O’Hara said. “His kids call me Uncle Phil, my kids call him Uncle Brad.”
O’Hara and Crossley have been best friends for over 40 years, all thanks to the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program.
“Phil was my physical teacher in grade 5 and at that point in my life, probably until I was 14, I lived in 11 different apartments and went to eight different public schools and had a wonderful supportive mom who did everything she could to accommodate me. ground and keep it on track and then Phil came along like a big brother,” said Crossley.
Over the years, the duo has traveled together and even appeared at each other’s weddings.
“Our relationship is not one-sided. Brad has been my mentor in an incredible number of ways over the years,” said O’Hara.
“We named our kids after each other and have done adventures and businesses together and now this little challenge,” added Crossley.
O’Hara, 68, is living with terminal cancer, a diagnosis he casually took.
“The cancer I have is not curable and I’ve exhausted all my treatment options. So I’m on a bit of an experimental drug that we’ll know around Christmas if there’s any effect, but it won’t be a cure, it’ll take my life.” just lengthen it a bit,” O’Hara said.
“You just don’t know what’s being treated your way every day,” Crossley said. “I have to tell you, the life he is living now, the passion he has for it, the love for life and the desire to live is just amazing.”
A lifelong educator, O’Hara has written about his journey with cancer on his blog. It’s a way to help other people who may not have the support system he has.
“I just felt that this was going to be the greatest learning moment of my life,” O’Hara said.
“I just thought maybe I could help other people by documenting my adventure with cancer from the beginning. It’s worked really well. It’s been received much better than I ever expected, and not just by people with life-threatening illnesses.”
This weekend, O’Hara will run his first Bluenose Marathon with his best friend by his side.
“The last time I ran I was doing a 5k the week before my cancer surgery and that was the last time I ran. I’ve lost so much weight, I can’t run anymore,” O’Hara said. “I’m pretty vulnerable, pretty weak, but not in spirit.”
“Phil will run the start and he’ll run the finish and I’ll push him the rest of the way and we’ll have a great time doing it and it’ll be something we’ll remember forever,” said Crossley.
Though he struggles to get out of bed some days, O’Hara said he is determined to live an exciting, full life.
“I didn’t ask for cancer, cancer blinded me. I can’t help that. But what I can do is choose to be the best person I can be every day, despite the cancer,” he said.
This week the two are training for the marathon. Some of their friends and family are planning to join them for the 10k race on Sunday morning.
“I think when we cross that finish line, it’s going to be one of those moments of absolute joy inside and nirvana, you’re going to be like the guy who breaks the ribbon at the Boston Marathon,” said O’Hara.
In addition to the upcoming marathon, the couple are looking forward to traveling to Boston together to visit Crossley’s daughter, who lives there.
“We know that the opportunities for us to have the kind of adventures we’ve had over the years are limited. I have an expiration date. I don’t know what it is and with cancer you never know, but I’m alive big and I made the decision to live big, so this kind of adventure where we do this race is just an extension of that. I’m doing big things in my life right now, putting check marks on bucket lists,” said O’Hara.
To contribute to Phil O’Hara’s initiative to raise money for Big Brothers, Big Sisters or Greater Halifax, click here.