Friday, 3 June 2016

Are We Missing the Point? How Gord Downie Helped Change the Way I Face My Illness

On May 24th Gord Downie and his doctor from Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto confirmed that he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Their report stated that Downie had been dealing with the very serious disease privately since December 2015. Later that week, the Tragically Hip, a band that Downie has been performing with for over 20 years, announced that they plan to have a tour this summer.

Long-time fans were obviously heart-broken to hear about Downie’s diagnosis, making purchasing tickets for their summer tour a more difficult endeavor. Presale tickets have sold out in less than two minutes. In fact, presale had sold so quickly that The Tragically Hip added four more tour dates to accommodate to the predicted madness that will happen as I write this article- the public sale of their tickets.

Fans are obviously upset over what has happened over the sale of The Tragically Hip’s 2016 summer tour. Other ticket outlets have been purchasing large quantities of the tickets available during the presale, only to resell the tickets at more than 5 times the cost of the original price of tickets. Ticket scalpers are obviously taking gross advance of a sensitive situation that should be treated with the utmost respect. To make matters worse, a portion of the original ticket sales is being donated to Sunnybrook Hospital. Who is profiting from the resell of tickets at nearly 5 times more their original value?

There have been on going news stories regarding the foul play made by the ticket scalpers. Fans have flooded social media to express their anger at ticket scalpers. Some have gone so far to make online petitions to protest the resale of tickets at such a high price. Tickets are going for over $8,000 USD- making purchasing a ticket from a scalper nearly impossible for the average Canadian. Scalpers are trying to profit off of someone’s illness, and are using bots to take away tickets from the average hard working fan. It is wrong- so outrageously wrong.

But are we missing the point? 

Reports on the resell of tickets by scalpers flooded social media and news outlets almost immediately after Downie shared his diagnosis. While it is iniquitous that ticket scalpers are profiting more than the band, and the hospital they were donating money to, this fiasco has overshadowed everything else.

For anyone who is familiar with my blog, I was given about 5 to 10 years to live about two and half years ago, after being diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension. I think that Downie’s diagnosis might have struck a different chord with me, and perhaps other people in my situation.

Two years ago I was given a life expectancy, and was severely disabled requiring supplementary oxygen 24 hours a day at the age of 25. Although I am still living with a very serious life-threatening illness, I am doing better than I was two years ago. However, I found that I became afraid of living for fear of making my condition worse. Going to concerts and shows was one of my most cherished past times in life, but I stopped going to them after my diagnosis out of fear.

I worry how the bass will affect my heart (something I have always had an issue with.)
I worry that I will need to wear my oxygen as the night goes on and I get tired.
I worry that I might have to wear a medical mask to protect me from germs.
I worry that people will stare at me because of my medical equipment.
I worry that strangers will ask, “what is wrong with me?” Which is always funny to answer, because I don’t feel like anything is “wrong” with me. I just happen to be sick.

Living with a terminal or life-threatening illness has sometimes made me feel like I am staring down a barrel of a gun. When I heard about Downie’s diagnosis, and how he planned to go on one of his best tours yet, it really encouraged me. Hearing the way he faced his diagnosis made me want to change the way I was facing mine. This man was also staring down a barrel of a "diagnosis gun" and he’s going to do what he loves to do anyways. Why wasn’t I doing the same? I realized I couldn’t keep letting life pass me by out of fear. Maybe it is time to test the waters a bit. Maybe I cant’t know what I can or can’t do without trying. I was lucky enough to score presale Hip tickets (please don’t hate me!) I also plan to go to a smaller local show next week just to test out the waters. The idea of going to a venue that houses nearly 20,000 with lots of stairs really freaks the heck of me, but I am hoping I will have a great time with no ill consequences to my health.

If only for a moment, can we shift our focus from how what the ticket scalpers are doing should be illegal, to how great The Tragically Hip and Gord Downie are?

Jack Chamber’s painting 401 Towards London No. 1
The Hip to me, are classic Canadiana, comparable to Jack Chamber’s painting 401 Towards London No. 1. When I listen to their music I can picture the Canadian landscape that surrounds me. This is mostly because of their phenomenal story telling. Some of The Hips most loved songs tell the stories of news events that took place in Canadian towns. Fifty Mission Cap tributes former Toronto Maple Leafs player Bill Barilko, and his mysterious disappearance due to a plane crash, and the eeriness surrounding the retrieval of his crashed plane. 38 Years Old recounts the fictional account of some 14 inmates that escaped from a prison in The Hip’s hometown of Kingston. Their lyrics and songs remain a vivid backdrop for Canada and its stories, both big and small. Real and fictional.

I want to thank The Tragically Hip and Gord Downie for lending their music to become apart of the soundtrack to so many people’s lives. I remember how excited a bar full of college students got when someone sang New Orleans Is Sinking at a Karaoke bar, in Waterloo, Ontario, just a few years before my diagnosis. I remember watching the music videos for Bobcaygeon and Ahead by a Century back when Much Music still played music videos, on early Saturday mornings before my parents were awake. Whenever Fireworks comes on the car radio my boyfriend, Spencer, sings along and squeezes my leg extra hard at “you said you didn’t give a fuck about hockey…” This will always be one of my favorite memories.

While I think that we can all agree that what has happened with the ticket scalpers in this situation is very disappointing and in bad taste, please don’t let it outshine what is really important. Gord Downie shared a very personal diagnosis with the public, something that I know is very difficult to do. I am sure that he and his family are facing something that is very hard to imagine unless you have experienced it. By letting the ticket scalpers cause so much anger, we are letting them place value on the wrong things. There is so much media attention surrounding this. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to raise funds and awareness for brain tumors? Or discuss about the accessibility of drugs and treatment of diseases in Canada?

The way Gord Downie is facing his diagnosis has shown me how I want to face mine. It is also a good reminder for what is truly important in life, because I know that sometimes we all forget. Instead of focusing all of our attention on the negative, lets celebrate what was, what is and what will be.

Thank you so much, and I look forward to seeing you in August.

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