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Julian Backhouse, in wheel chair wearing Andy Capp hat, celebrates his life with friends and family following a liver cancer diagnosis, in Markham, Ont., on June 26.J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

The organizer: Julian Backhouse

The pitch: Raising more than $14,000 for World Wildlife Fund

Climbing Toronto’s CN Tower is challenging for anyone, let alone someone who has a rare condition that affects muscle movement.

Julian Backhouse wasn’t going to let Wilson’s disease – a genetic disorder that causes copper to accumulate in various organs which leads to neurological problems – stop him from climbing the tower’s 1,776 steps; not once but six times to raise more than $14,000 for the World Wildlife Fund.

He’d heard about the climb from a friend and decided to give it a try. “When I got struck with Wilson’s I lost the ability to walk and balance became a problem,” Mr. Backhouse recalled from his home in Toronto. “But I could climb stairs.” With the help of family and friends, Mr. Backhouse, 69, became something of an institution at the climb and he managed to scale the stairs in less than an hour.

Last fall, Mr. Backhouse received some grim news. He was diagnosed with liver cancer which has spread throughout much of his body. Instead of being despondent, Mr. Backhouse decided to organize his own celebration of life.

He called it “I’m Not Dead Yet” and set a goal of raising $15,000 for the WWF, Toronto’s St. Paul’s Church and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “The nice thing about having cancer, they give you a deadline and I got time to plan my party,” he said. “I want to be alive during my funeral, basically.”

The event, held on June 26, was a kind of variety show that included highlights of Mr. Backhouse’s life. “I’ve always looked at the cup as half-full not half-empty. I was always second in my career but I worked hard,” he said. “I’ve led the good life.”

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