The shocking news yesterday morning of Gord Downie’s diagnosis of terminal brain cancer elicited mass media coverage and the spontaneous outpouring of concern and support for The Tragically Hip frontman. This reaction confirmed just how deeply the band has become ingrained into the national psyche over the past three decades.
Further details of Downie’s condition were provided yesterday morning at a press conference in Toronto just a few hours after the news broke. The principal speaker was Dr. James Perry, Head of Neurology, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and he was joined by The Tragically Hip’s co-managers, Patrick Sambrook and Bernie Breen.
As the neuro-oncologist leading the medical team involved in Downie’s treatment, Perry provided plenty of medical information on glioblastoma, the type of brain tumour involved.
Perry stated that “Gord has a primary brain tumour, meaning it started within the brain. They are infiltrative. They frequently recur and these tumours are impossible to remove completely by surgery. They require other therapies, such as radiation and chemotherapy treatment. They range in how aggressive they are. It is my difficult duty today to tell you that Gord Downie’s brain tumour is incurable.”
Perry noted that “ Glioblastoma –gbm for short- is one of the most common causes of cancer deaths in Canadians between 40 and 60 years old.”
Downie’s condition was discovered in December 2015 after he suffered a seizure while walking down the street in Kingston. Perry explained that “Dr. Douglas Cook in Kingston, a friend of the band and an excellent neurosurgeon, performed Gord’s surgery and excised the bulk of the brain tumour. After comprehensive examination of the tissue with advanced scientific techniques, our team assembled here discussed the most optimal treatment for Gord, as we do with every new patient.
"He was given radiation treatment for six weeks, combined with chemotherapy medication. That was completed a little more than a month ago. Gord has rallied tremendously in the last several weeks. Last week an important MRI scan of the brain showed that the swelling in his left temporal lobe area has decreased substantially and the amount of residual tumour has clearly shrunk, and he is doing very well.”
Downie’s improvement is such that he and his bandmates have resolved to play one final The Tragically Hip Canadian tour. As the band stated in their official statement yesterday, “We've decided to do another one. This feels like the right thing to do now, for Gord, and for all of us. What we in The Hip receive, each time we play together, is a connection; with each other; with music and it's magic; and during the shows, a special connection with all of you, our incredible fans. So, we're going to dig deep, and try to make this our best tour yet.”
At the press conference, Sambrook explained that “the will to do the tour, that was easy. The reality was ‘can we do this to a certain level?’ Gord absolutely doesn’t want to go out there unless he can really do his thing. His and the band’s headspace is ‘we want to blow people’s minds.’ That is how they have always been. As Dr. Perry referenced, they got together this past weekend and came out of it with the thumbs up. We are excited about it.’
Breen concurred, stressing that “There is no loss here. We are going to play a tour. Gord is dealing with his issues of health, and we are confident, comfortable and happy to get at it.”
To Dr. Perry, Downie’s example will have a positive impact. “The news today, while sad, also creates for us in brain tumour research an unprecedented opportunity to create awareness and create an opportunity for fundraising for research that is desperately needed to improve the odds for all people with this disease.
Gord’s courage in coming forward with his diagnosis will be a beacon for all patients with glioblastoma in Canada that will see a survivor continuing with his craft despite its many challenges.”
That tour was announced on the band’s website this morning.
The arena tour (promoted by Live Nation) will kick off on July 22 at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria BC, closing out in the band’s hometown of Kingston ON, with an Aug. 20 show at Rogers K-Rock Centre.
There will be 11 dates in 10 cities, but the gaps around each date leads us to speculate that extra shows will be added, given the inevitable huge demand for tickets.
Here’s the full itinerary.
JUL 22 -SAVE-ON-FOODS MEMORIAL CENTRE
JUL 24 -PEPSI LIVE AT ROGERS ARENA
JUL 28 -REXALL PLACE
AUG 1 2016-SCOTIABANK SADDLEDOME
AUG 5 2016-MTS CENTRE
AUG 8 2016-BUDWEISER GARDENS
AUG 10 2016-AIR CANADA CENTRE
AUG 12 2016-AIR CANADA CENTRE
AUG 16 2016-FIRSTONTARIO CENTRE
AUG 18 2016 -CANADIAN TIRE CENTRE
AUG 20 2016- ROGERS K-ROCK CENTRE