No Bad Days by Michael Buchino

Andrew Got Cancer

It’s okay! He’s in remission and didn’t die! Buy a T-Shirt!

In June of 2016, my best friend called to tell me he had cancer.

It made sense in the context of our lives. We had reached our mid-30s and had grown weary of the tedium in our daily rigor. Cancer was a good pick for anyone with a natural inclination toward curious and daring hobbies. A stunt like this could really get your blood going.

You Got This by Michael Buchino

“I have leukemia!”

Andrew was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is rare for someone his age.

The worst part of cancer is how it turns your life upside down without preparation. The other worst part of cancer is information overload and feelings turned up to 11. The other worst part is how everyone treats you differently. The other worst part is that you have cancer.

Andrew was promptly poked and prodded, scanned and examined, hooked up to tubes and plugged into monitors. His body was surrendered to an army of technicians intent on fixing a broken vessel.

Laughter Is the Best Medicine by Michael Buchino

It was hard. Drugs helped. Hugs helped. Humor, understanding, counseling, meditation and napping all helped, too. In particularly dour moments, a mantra emerged. To maintain an optimistic outlook, Andrew would remind himself:

No bad days;

only good days and wasted time.

Death is coming.

No Bad Days was both affirmation and mandate. You’re alive, Andrew; that’s pretty good. This is your life, Andrew; make it count. It was simple and effective and quickly became a staple among Andrew’s inner circle. It seemed to resonate more than other platitudinal expressions of encouragement.

Hang in There by Michael Buchino

Over the next six months, Andrew accrued a unique list of experiences:

  • 1 time almost dying
  • 8 cycles of chemotherapy
  • 12 spinal taps
  • 5 bone marrow biopsies
  • 2 unexplained fevers
  • 10 hospital admissions
  • 58 days in hospital
  • 5 operations
  • countless prescriptions
  • hundreds of appointments
  • 2 new Worst Pain I’ve Ever Felt thresholds

That was his list. I would add that his urine was toxic after chemo cycles. If it spilled on you, that area of your skin would become necrotic. Once, when I spent the night in the hospital with Andrew, he woke up to pee in the hospital-sanctioned bedside receptacle and spilled piss all over the floor. We got to play hot lava just like when we were kids, only now one of us had cancer.

Andrew’s 2017 Big Climb team, Fuck Cancer (with T-shirt art by Carolyn Sewell)

Recovery, Stairs, a Tattoo and a T-shirt

Within six months, Andrew was in remission. His body reacted to treatment as best as one could hope. During his last chemo cycle, he set a personal record for low red blood cell count. Red blood cells carry oxygen; you become anemic, tired, cold and out of breath when you don’t have enough.

It was then that Andrew decided to do The Big Climb, a charity event for the The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society where fundraisers climb 788 feet of vertical elevation up Columbia Center in downtown Seattle. Andrew wasn’t satisfied to just recover. He set a goal to achieve something his pre-cancer body had never done. And, incredibly, he did it!

The Big Climb is a wonderful event.¹ Andrew’s team, Fuck Cancer, won the Why We Climb award in 2017, and we raised over $15,000. This year, Andrew is a Big Climb honoree. We climb on March 25 and are set to raise a boat hull of money (you can donate here).

At some point, Andrew started talking about getting a No Bad Days tattoo. And then he asked me if I’d take a whack at it. When someone wants to put your art on their body—permanently—well, that’s about as big as it gets.

Here’s how it evolved:

From March to September, I sketched up a design. I wrote it in Spanish because I thought it sounded better. It evolved into Latin because it looked cool, and there’s a tinge of irony employing a dead language to celebrate life. Oh, and there’s a skull.

I was outside my element: I’ve never illustrated a tattoo. Though I always admired tattoos, my linework is typically very different. I wanted No Bad Days to feel like an eagle wearing a jean jacket riding a motorcycle, ya know?

In October, we sent the finished design to Cotton Bureau to turn into a shirt. In December, we visited Emi Stone at Sellwood Tattoo to get inked. Emi is an amazing artist; check out her work and go get a tattoo!

Look how rad this turned out:

Emi Stone tattooing Andrew in December 2017
No Bad Days tattoo in February 2018

Seriously, Buy a T-Shirt

Andrew had an incredible support system composed of friends, family, medical staff at Swedish Hospital, co-workers at Distiller, the strong man community and especially his partner, Becky, who helped him through every exciting new obstacle of cancer. He is lucky. Not everyone gets to share their story and inspire others.

So, sales pitch The shirt with a cool attitude is for sale for a limited time—just two weeks! It comes in every color of the Henry Ford rainbow², Cotton Bureau shirts are the poo, and my proceeds will go toward The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Share it with your friends, buy one for your mother and remember:

No bad days;

only good days and wasted time.

Death is coming.

Cotton Bureau No Bad Days shirt on Yaz and Jordan

For more on Michael Buchino, visit buchino.net.

For more on Andrew Palmer, watch his latest video update; read his Medium articles like this one and that one; or listen to his interview on the Sickboy podcast at SXSW.

¹ That we need to raise money to fund cancer research is so fucking stupid. We live in a country that put a man on the moon in 1969. Cancer shouldn’t be a thing anymore. Thoughts and prayers are nice, but electing pro-science representatives actually gets results.

² Any color so long as it’s black.

Telling stories with pictures. http://buchino.net

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