Gord Downie on cancer diagnosis: ‘I am resigned to the direction this is heading’
By Steve Tilley
, Postmedia Network
First posted: Thursday, October 13, 2016 12:59 PM EDT
Gord Downie is fighting for time.
The Tragically Hip frontman is speaking publicly for the first time about his battle with terminal brain cancer, which he revealed to shocked Canadians in May before kicking off an emotional summer concert tour with his bandmates.
In an interview with CBC’s Peter Mansbridge
set to air Thursday night on The National, Downie tells Mansbridge that he has the veteran journalist’s name written on his hand in order to remember it.
“And I say that, just to be up front, ’cause I might call you Doug,” says a subdued Downie, in a snippet of the interview posted to CBC.ca. He admits he even has trouble recalling his own kids’ names at times, a side effect of the cancer’s attack on his brain.
The charismatic and irrepressible singer, who used a teleprompter to help him remember song lyrics during the band’s recent Man Machine Poem tour, tells Mansbridge, “My memory used to be my forte, and now I can’t remember hardly anything.”
Downie was diagnosed last December with glioblastoma, a rare and particularly aggressive form of brain cancer for which there is no cure. In July and August, Downie and bandmates Gord Sinclair, Paul Langlois, Johnny Fay and Rob Baker undertook a 10-city, cross-Canada tour, during which Downie displayed an incredible amount of on-stage energy at each sold-out show.
Following the concert tour, Downie has been working on The Secret Path, a solo album and accompanying graphic novel inspired by Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old Ojibway boy who died in 1966 while in the care of Canada’s controversial residential schools system.
When Mansbridge asks Downie if he’s fighting what’s in front of him, the singer – who has undergone surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation therapy to slow the cancer’s progression – says yes. “For sure. I can get more time,” Downie says. “More time if I try this, I can get more time.”
But he admits that he is resigned to the eventual outcome of his disease.
“I am resigned to the direction this is heading, yes. I am. I really am,” Downie says.
“Because I can see it, and feel it, doing some… not doing some good, but it’s… creating something. An opportunity, I guess, and they don’t come around too often.”
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Gord Downie on cancer diagnosis: â€˜I am resigned to the direction this is heading
Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie on battle with terminal cancer: I 'can’t remember hardly anything'
The Canadian Press
First posted: Friday, October 14, 2016 07:32 AM EDT | Updated: Friday, October 14, 2016 07:42 AM EDT
TORONTO — Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie says his memory is fading as he battles terminal brain cancer, but he is keeping busy with projects that may include another record.
Downie spoke with anchor Peter Mansbridge in an exclusive interview for CBC’s “The National,” which aired Thursday night.
Downie told Mansbridge he “can’t remember hardly anything” and admitted he had to write “Peter” on his hand so he wouldn’t forget the name of the man interviewing him, whom he’s known for 25 years.
Downie also said he’s fighting his terminal illness and hopes he “can get more time.”
When Mansbridge asked if he’s “resigned to the direction this is heading,” Downie replied, “Yes, I am. I really am.”
Downie revealed his cancer earlier this year. Over the summer, he and the Hip put on a 15-show tour that ended with an emotional live broadcast concert from his hometown of Kingston, Ont., that drew millions of viewers.
Next Tuesday, Downie is set to release “Secret Path,” a new solo album with an accompanying graphic novel inspired by the tragedy of Canada’s residential school system. He is also scheduled to perform at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on Tuesday, and at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall on Oct. 21.
“Secret Path” tells the story of a 12-year-old First Nations boy in Ontario named Chanie Wenjack, who died in 1966 after running away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School near Kenora, Ont.
An animated film on the story — accompanied by documentary footage of Downie tracing Chanie’s steps with the Wenjack family — will be broadcast on CBC on Oct. 23.
“This is what I want to do,” Downie said of the project. “Nothing else really matters to me.”
He also said the Tragically Hip are working on another record, adding that “just doing things” brings him peace.
The interview marked the first time he’s discussed his condition publicly. He said he feels lucky in a sense because he can still accomplish some things.
“It’s given me this long kind of way to do some of these things that I’ve always wanted to do,” Downie said.
Downie told Mansbridge one of the biggest effects of his illness is his memory that used to be his “forte.”
“And now I can’t remember hardly anything. I have ’Peter’ written on my hand. I have a few things written on my hands. And I say that just to be up front, because I might call you Doug.”
He said he struggled with his memory during the summer tour and had to use six teleprompters to help with lyrics. Downie said before his illness he always had one teleprompter at his shows as a backup, but rarely needed it. He had difficulty remembering lyrics during the summer tour, he said.
“For some reason every line, I just couldn’t, it’s the worst kind of punishment,” he said.
“It was one savage kick in the pants, can’t remember people’s names and can’t remember lyrics.”
Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie on battle with terminal cancer: I 'canâ€™t rem