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When I was born doctors quickly realized something was wrong. I started to turn blue. It was my heart. Doctors told my parents that if I was going to survive, I needed open-heart surgery and quickly. I was put on a helicopter and flown away for open-heart surgery. The surgery was incredibly risky but it was successful. After a lengthy recovery, my parents took their new son home. There were more surgeries and hospital visits, but it was 22 years before I faced the biggest challenge of my life.

It was 2002 when my condition grew worse. Suddenly I couldn’t climb a hill without losing my breath and I felt exhausted all the time. In just three months I lost more than a quarter of my body weight. I saw my doctor to see what was going on. He sat me down and said the words that changed my life: “You need a heart and double lung transplant and you need it now.”

Two months later, my dad and I left the rest of our family at home and moved to Toronto to start waiting. After four months my condition grew worse and I was put in hospital. I lay in the same bed for six more months waiting for a miracle. Finally, on September 6th, at 10:15pm the call came. The next morning, the doctors came to get me for surgery. I looked at Mom and she looked at me. Both of us searching for the right words to say knowing they could be our last. All that came out was “See you soon.” There was no mention of the possibility of a negative outcome.

Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in two World Transplant Games, run three marathons, and become the gold medalist at the 2006 Canadian Transplant Games. Now not a day goes by that I don’t remember what it was like to sit in that hospital room wondering if I’d ever get to really LIVE life again and so I see each day as a great opportunity to live life to the fullest.

That journey has taught me three big lessons.

1) Choose a Positive Perspective. We will all face difficult things in our lives. The difference between those who are happy and those who aren’t is not what happens to you, but how you handle it.

2) Live Today. Most of us waste away our lives worrying about tomorrow and regretting yesterday’s mistakes. When I was in the hospital I realized that the only thing I could control was today. Live today as best as you can, and tomorrow will take care of itself.

3) Go Big or Stay Home. You only get one chance at this thing called life. You don’t do anyone any favours by living it small. Set big goals for yourself. You may be surprised what you can accomplish.

Your life is what you make it. Make yours great!

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Mark Black has been a professional speaker for five years and is the founder of Mark Black Speaks. He is frequently booked by schools, associations and corporations to motivate and inspire their students and staff. His story of courage and perseverance touches audiences and motivates them to live their lives with passion and enthusiasm. He has spoken to audiences of 10 and audiences of 1000 from Halifax to Vancouver.

Born with a congenital heart defect, Mark barely survived his first week of life. Before reaching the age of two, he’s already undergone two open heart surgeries. Then in September 2002, after waiting on the transplant list for 10 months and near death, Mark survived a life-saving heart and double-lung transplant.

Since that day, Mark has beaten all the odds. Expected to spend two months in recovery after his surgery, Mark was out in 16 days. He was running just three months later and has since run two marathons and three half-marathons. Mark lives everyday with the same attitude, “Go Big or Go Home!” Despite the fact that he still faces huge risks and he knows that eventually his new organs will stop working and he’ll be on deaths door again someday, Mark doesn’t live in fear and worry, he lives life “From the Heart”.

Mark’s accomplishments include: running 3 marathons and 3 half-marathons, winning 6 medals at the 2008 Canadian Transplant Games and releasing his new book, “Live Life from the Heart: 52 Weeks to a Life of Passion and Purpose”.

Mark shares more than just a powerful message when he steps on the stage; he shares himself with each member of his audience. Maybe that’s why everyone who hears him speak is touched in a profound way. Mark’s message is simple, “Live today with all of your heart, because tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone.”

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