PATRICK BYRNE: The only sin is not going down swinging. It’s okay to lose; it’s not okay to take a dive.
HOST, STACEY GUALANDI: When faced with cancer, Patrick Byrne chose to fight. That was 22 years ago. Now for the first time, the CEO of Overstock.com describes how staying in the fight helped him beat cancer not once, not twice, but three times.
STACEY GUALANDI: Did at any point you think that maybe cancer is stalking you?
PATRICK BYRNE: I did think that he was going to…that cancer was going to take the last round, that death was going to take the last round. And it’s going to take the last round for you, too. It’s going to take the last round for all of us.
STACEY GUALANDI: It’s almost like cancer picked the wrong guy. Do you know what I mean?
PATRICK BYRNE: Well, no argument here. It just would’ve been okay if it hadn’t picked me.
STACEY GUALANDI: To know the 44-year-old self-made multi-millionaire today, you would recognize a man on top of an Internet dynasty. Byrne created Overstock.com, an online warehouse devoted to brand-name products at clearance prices. But before cancer, Byrne had different plans.
PATRICK BYRNE: It ruined my health, really. For example, it ruined my chances of ever being a competitive athlete. I had gotten so far off the beaten path that I never found the beaten path again. I just kept on marching. It so derailed my life, in a way, that maybe it’s the best thing that ever happened because I was just so far off the rails that I just said, “Well, I’m just going to keep going.”
STACEY GUALANDI: Just weeks after graduating college, Byrne collapsed during a vacation in Scotland. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had metastasized throughout his body. He was only 22.
PATRICK BYRNE: I was what doctors call a train wreck.
STACEY GUALANDI: Within the next three years, the cancer returned two more times.
STACEY GUALANDI: Patrick, how do you think you overcame this?
PATRICK BYRNE: Knock on wood. Knock on wood. I, uh… it’s a good question. It’s much harder to have someone in your family go through it than it is to go through it yourself. It really is. I was thinking all the time how much harder it was on my family than it was actually on me. It must be especially difficult I think for a parent to see a child going through it.
STACEY GUALANDI: Do you think, sitting here today, that you are a different man than the man before you were diagnosed with cancer?
PATRICK BYRNE: I think so. It led me to decide, well, if I really only have a few months what do I want to do now? What do I want to do for those few months? And really, years went by where I kept on living that way.
STACEY GUALANDI: Do you feel an obligation to live your life in a certain way because of what you went through with cancer?
PATRICK BYRNE: My sense of obligation has to do less about my own life than it does about other people around me, what I see go on and all that affection for the underdog that we’re supposed to feel.
STACEY GUALANDI: That is what drives his work now. He is an avid philanthropist, creating Worldstock.com to end global poverty, and he even bicycled across the United States for cancer research.
STACEY GUALANDI: Ultimately, do you think that you are defined by the disease that you had?
PATRICK BYRNE: No, my life is definitely much better for having had cancer. My relationships are much purer.
STACEY GUALANDI: Patrick, do you think that you’ve conquered cancer?
PATRICK BYRNE: He’ll take the last round, I promise.
STACEY GUALANDI: But he remains fearless, and for all the success he has earned, and the life-threatening disease he overcame, Byrne now has one simple goal.
STACEY GUALANDI: You know you talk a lot about the future and I think a lot of it has to do with what you do for a living and your company. Where do you see yourself, I don’t know, five, ten years down the line? Is that too hard?
PATRICK BYRNE: I want to have a backpack on with everything I own fit into the backpack and be walking on a trail somewhere. That’s all I ever think about.
STACEY GUALANDI: Really? So would you kind of chuck all this someday, do you think? Or hand it over to someone else?
PATRICK BYRNE: Oh yeah.
STACEY GUALANDI: Are you prepared for anything that may come your way? Perhaps if cancer should ever strike again?
PATRICK BYRNE: Well, I’m ready. I’m ready for what comes my way.
[End of recording]