CITRUS HEIGHTS, Calif. – If you spend some time with Chris Betancourt, the first thing you’ll notice is that he acts like a completely normal 20-year-old man.
“I put two legs in one pant leg this morning, I don’t think I’m an inspiration,” he told KTXL. “But it’s amazing to see people think I’m an inspiration.”
But Chris and his friends, who all call themselves ordinary, are doing some extraordinary things. For instance, a week before Christmas, they found themselves on a rooftop in San Francisco for a giant, public pillow fight.
Their story begins nearly a decade ago when Chris met his friend Dillon Hill in the fifth grade. That same year, Chris was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia — a form of cancer that attacks the blood cells in his bone marrow.
“He was there every single day in the hospital for two months which really strengthened the friendship,” Chris said.
Chris’ cancer went into remission after those two intense months. He and Dillon stayed close into high school, where they met Hrach Avetisyan.
But after years without symptoms, Chris collapsed this past Memorial Day.
Doctors said not only was his cancer back but without a bone marrow donor, he had less than a year to live.
“I was just crying for the first few days honestly. it was a lot to process,” he said. “(Dillon) came back in a few days to me and was like give me a list of 50 things that we’re doing. And we’re going to go out and do them. And we’re gonna document them.”
And so Chris’ bucket list was born.
The big pillow fight was item 31.
“He’s saying, ‘I’m not a hospital patient who’s going to die, let me live out my bucket list. I am someone who might die, let me inspire everyone else around me. Let’s live out our bucket lists together,’” Dillon said.
And that’s exactly what they have been doing, crossing off goals one by one.
Feed the homeless – done.
Get matching tattoos – done.
Spend a day at Reddit – done.
Chris’ mom, Alexandra, was a reluctant supporter at first.
“While they’re having fun and all this stuff, I’m more concerned about trying to find a way to prolong his life and have him stay longer,” she told KTXL.
If Chris doesn’t survive this year, he’ll be the second child she’s lost. In 2014, Chris’ sister committed suicide.
But Alexandra now says fulfilling the list with her son has brought them closer.
“I already lost a daughter and I do try to keep all the pictures and everything I can find of her with me. I wish I had more,” she said. “So, I think this is a good idea because I can always go back to him and think of him and remember him in a nice way.”
Chris says having his mom around sometimes changes the dynamic of completing the list.
“Just in the sense of she doesn’t like me thinking about an ending of the list, a perishing,” he SAID. “She definitely clings to me a lot closer because I’m all she’s got.”
If this really the last year Chris has left, he hopes his legacy inspires people to live their lives.
Actually live them.
“Life is never done being lived. You can never cross off all of your life’s items because there is always gonna be something new,” he said.
He says the idea behind any good bucket list is to never finish.