The Tragically Hip: What Gord Downie’s Courage Means to One Cancer Survivor

By Cancer Foundation on August 15 / 2016

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Denis Raymond captures a moment featuring one of Gord Downie’s iconic hats.

You’ve probably heard the latest on the Tragically Hip: lead singer Gord Downie was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, spurring the band to go on a final tour across Canada. His diagnosis is the same as our very own Cancer Foundation Ambassador, Denis Raymond. Since going on a clinical trial in part funded by donors of the Cancer Foundation, Denis shows no signs of cancer, and no signs of slowing down! He recently had the opportunity to attend his first and only Tragically Hip concert in London, ON with help from the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada: he describes it as a “deeply personal” gesture given the commonalities between himself and Gord, and has inspired us by describing the impact this once-in-a-lifetime experience had on him. Denis writes:

They began the show by drawing everyone in with the intimate setting reminiscent of a group of friends playing music together in a garage or a small room. Despite the large arena-sized venue, they huddled together for their first few songs in the middle of the stage and, in doing so, shrunk the arena to the size of a thumbnail. The effect was the sentiment of a deep connection with the artists that I’ve rarely felt as a member of an audience for such a high-profile group of musicians.

Slowly, as the show went on, they opened up their intimate circle to let us, the audience, in, and proceeded to blow everyone away with their explosive high-energy tunes. And there would be a word that could sum up the concert in itself: Energy. The crowd was on fire, and the Hip were electric. Gord blew me away. Despite everything he and his family are going through, his performance was passionate and pensive at the same time. Energetic yet teeming with nostalgia. Extraordinary yet modest.

Which brings me to my main thought that sparked me to write this lengthy post. The decision to embark on this “final” tour of Canada must have been a difficult one to make due to Gord’s situation. I know of many, including myself, who sometimes would like to rage against a world that often feels unfair and unloving, or would like to drop everything and crawl into a hole. It becomes difficult for many of us to appreciate the things we used to enjoy before our diagnosis. Whether it be the constant concern over our mortality, our persistent body-image issues, our changed (and sometimes strained) relationships with key members of our support networks, or anything else, many cancer survivors feel like we lose a major part of who we used to be. Despite everything, Gord is doing what he loves, and does it with as much passion and energy as he always had. With that, thank you Gord, for allowing me to be a small part of your world, for it’s become a large part of mine.

“No dress rehearsal. This is our life.”

To make a donation to the Cancer Foundation to support clinical trials like the one Denis participated in, please click the button below.

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To see the Tragically Hip on stage this summer, tune in to the August 20 CBC live broadcast of their final concert in Kingston:

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