How to Win a Tickle Fight (2016)

Follow one young family as they strive to live full, meaningful lives despite the metastatic cancer diagnosis they are navigating.

Synopsis: How to Win a Tickle Fight is a true story that follows one young father, Brock, and his family for two years as they strive to live full, meaningful lives despite the metastatic cancer diagnosis they are navigating. Brock desperately wants to leave a legacy for his 7 year old son and be remembered as more than a “sick person.” Kristen, Brock’s wife, wants to maintain a closeness with her husband even while he is dying. And their son Ben… he just wants to have fun with his mom and dad. Through their difficult journey, the family comes to realizes that many things can still go right even when things have gone terribly wrong.

The backstory:

In 2012, after a gloomy meeting with his oncologist and an even worse accident, Brock and his wife Kristen had a serious talk about recording their lives in order to leave a lasting picture for their son Ben to remember these as good days, to not let them be overshadowed but the gloom that has touched them. They wanted to capture the joy and beauty of their adventures together as a family but found it hard to be in the moment while always thinking about how to document it. Then a chance encounter with young adult cancer survivor and documentary filmmaker Mike Lang opened a realm of possibilities.

Mike and his fellow filmmaker friend, Aaron, followed Brock and his family for 2 years, through the ups and downs of cancer and of life in general. Since Brock and his family love to be outside having adventures, different locations and outdoor activities were used to highlight the lessons that they are learning and provide the backdrop to their journey together.

The filming was completed in October 2016, two days before Brock’s death…

… but this film is not a film about death and dying. It is about life, and living. It is not a gloomy film about cancer – it is a film about possibilities. It’s a story for anyone who has struggled with the idea of leaving a legacy for the people you love.

A note from Director Mike Lang:

I met Brock and Kristen on a Survive & Thrive Cancer Programs kayaking expedition in July 2013. On that trip I sensed there was some deep wisdom I needed to learn from their story, so I asked to follow them around with a camera.

Brock said no.

I think he understood that I wanted him to be something that he didn’t want to be. I wanted him to be a Hero. I wanted to talk about illness, death and dying. He wanted to be seen as a “normal” person. He wanted to talk about life and living. I was focused on all the wrong things.

Luckily for me, and everyone who will watch this film, he reconsidered, and over the next two years I slowly began to realize that Brock’s illness was just a faded backdrop to what really mattered. Cancer had just intensified the real story of Brock’s life: his desire to be a good dad and “show up” for his kid.

Being a cancer survivor myself, I have struggled with whether I should become a father knowing that I could pass along “bad genes” to my offspring, or die early because of a re-occurrence. From watching Brock I learned so much about what it means to be a good dad in the midst of difficult circumstances and in the process of creating this film I realized that if he could do it, maybe I could too.

I saw in Brock, Kristen and Ben’s story that life is not either “good” or “bad”, but that it can be both at the same time. I think we have forgotten this truth in North America. I hope through Brock’s story we are all encouraged to not let our spirit die before our bodies do.

A Special thank you to the Canadian Cancer Society (Alberta/NWT) who committed $10,000 towards this project so that the wisdom to be learned from Brock, Kristen and Ben’s story can be shared with the world. We think it is possible to live well and be a good father in the midst of difficult circumstances, but instead of just talking about it, we want to show it happening on screen.