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How Gord Downie Helped Change the Way I Face My Illness

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On May 24th Gord Downie and his doctor from Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto confirmed 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 they plan to have a tour this summer.

Long-time fans were obviously heartbroken to hear about Downie’s diagnosis, making purchasing tickets for their summer tour a more difficult endeavor. Pre-sale tickets have sold out in less than two minutes. In fact, pre-sale had sold so quickly that The Tragically Hip added four more tour dates to accommodate 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 pre-sale, only to resell the tickets at more than five times the cost of the original price of tickets. Some are being sold 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 using bots to take away tickets from the average hard working fan. It is wrong, so outrageously wrong. Ticket scalpers are obviously taking gross advance of a sensitive situation that should be treated with the utmost respect.

But are we missing the point? 

Reports on the resale of tickets by scalpers flooded social media and news outlets almost immediately after Downie shared his diagnosis. And this fiasco has overshadowed everything else.

I was given about five to 10 years to live about two and half years ago, after being diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. I think 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 strangers will ask, “What’s wrong with me?” This 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 pre-sale 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.

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 he and his family are facing something extremely 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.

Follow this journey on Phight or Flight

The Mighty is asking the following: Share a powerful moment you or a loved one has had with a public figure. Or, write a letter to a public figure who you feel has helped you or a loved one through his or her work. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: June 3, 2016
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