Jeffrey Vallis is a freelance writer and communications specialist living in Toronto.

Thoughts and reflections on my life and work.

Thoughts and reflections on my life and work.

What I learned from a 70-year-old cancer patient

Interviewing Fatima Hrienko (right) and her daughter Tamara Colaizzi (middle) at the base of the CN Tower before the WWF's CN Tower  Climb for Nature .

Interviewing Fatima Hrienko (right) and her daughter Tamara Colaizzi (middle) at the base of the CN Tower before the WWF's CN Tower Climb for Nature.

Sometimes, I can get a little down on myself. I feel sad when I apply for a job and never hear back. I feel frustrated when I don’t see results at the gym (or more likely, disappointed in myself for never going to the gym in the first place). But then I meet someone like Fatima Hrienko, and I'm reminded to give myself a kick in the ass and snap out of it.

At 70 years old, she is feisty and funny as ever, and has such a refreshing and positive outlook on life. Despite the stage four cancer diagnosis that has taken part of her right lung and right leg muscle, she hasn’t let it dampen her spirits or prevent her from going after her goals.

Recently, Fatima climbed the steps of the CN Tower (all 1,776 of them), and I was the lucky one that got to meet and interview her, and record this journey for the CBC Radio One program Now or Never, the show about Canadians who are making changes and making things happen in their lives.

Interviewing Fatima Hrienko (right) and her husband Nick Hrienko (middle) at the top of the CN Tower following Fatima's climb.

Interviewing Fatima Hrienko (right) and her husband Nick Hrienko (middle) at the top of the CN Tower following Fatima's climb.

Note: I also climbed up the CN Tower! And produced the radio piece, filmed and edited the video, and wrote the web article. And, yes, I'm available for hire! ;-)

Fatima has always wanted to climb the CN Tower, and she fancies herself an active, competitive person. So she wasn’t about to let her doctor, her family, or her illness prevent her from chasing her dream all the way up the CN Tower.

I feel so fortunate to have been able to meet Fatima and share her inspiring story with the world. I keep talking about this story and sharing it with my friends and family because it is so inspirational and heartwarming and precisely what we all need a little more of in our lives. In talking to Fatima, that's part of the reason she wanted to share her story.

"I'm a person that was always a little shy to be in the spotlight," she told me (which is surprising, I'm sure, to anyone who has met her, because she has a big personality). "But I got in my head that I should do this for two reasons. To prove to myself that I am still a strong person. But the other thing is, I hope that some people that are struggling to face their fear of a certain illness will get a glimpse and say, 'hey, if I get my mindset, I can conquer this,' because we can. Even if we only live one or two more months, but we lived it well."

Head over to the Now or Never website to read/listen to Fatima's story, and start putting some of her positive energy and attitude to work in your life. I know I'm going to take her "enjoy life" approach and stop sweating the small stuff, because what the world needs now is more positivity. And more Fatima.

Interviewing Fatima Hrienko (right) and her daughter Tamara Colaizzi (middle) at the base of the CN Tower before the WWF's CN Tower  Climb for Nature .

Interviewing Fatima Hrienko (right) and her daughter Tamara Colaizzi (middle) at the base of the CN Tower before the WWF's CN Tower Climb for Nature.

Chatting with Tamara (left), Fatima (bottom right) and Nick (top right) at the top of the CN Tower following Fatima's climb.

Chatting with Tamara (left), Fatima (bottom right) and Nick (top right) at the top of the CN Tower following Fatima's climb.

Interviewing Fatima's youngest daughter, Alexandra Hrienko-Chilcott, at the top of the CN Tower following Fatima's climb.

Interviewing Fatima's youngest daughter, Alexandra Hrienko-Chilcott, at the top of the CN Tower following Fatima's climb.