Downie To Tour Despite “Incurable” Brain TumourMay 24, 2016 3:05pm
Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie is determined to “blow people’s minds” with a raucous Canadian tour in the wake of learning he has an incurable brain cancer, his managers said Tuesday as fans tried to digest the shocking announcement about the singer’s illness.
Band managers Patrick Sambrook and Bernie Breen said doctors have cleared the 52-year-old father of four to hit the road following surgery and treatment for glioblastoma — the most common and aggressive type of tumour to start in the brain.
The details of the tour are set to be announced Wednesday.
“The will to do the tour, that was easy,” Sambrook said at a press conference also attended by Downie’s neuro-oncologist, Dr. James Perry.
“The (question was): ‘Can we do this?’ and ‘Can we do it to the level that (we want)?’ It’s a pro band, Gord absolutely doesn’t want to go out there unless he can really do his thing and so I mean, their head space, his head space is: ‘We want to blow people’s minds.’”
Perry, head of neurology at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, said it was “too early” to offer a prognosis but added Downie’s case is especially receptive to treatment, suggesting “a significantly higher chance of longer-term survival.”
But the physician also said Downie’s tumour, found in his front left temporal lobe, is impossible to completely remove by surgery and frequently recurs.
“Unfortunately, one day it will come back,” said Perry, dismissing the possibility of a complete recovery.
Downie was diagnosed in December after suffering a seizure. Surgery removed the bulk of the tumour, while six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy — completed about a month and a half ago — have reduced it even further.
“He has returned to his physical, emotional, mental strength well enough now to be able to get back doing what he loves doing,” Perry said of the charismatic frontman, known for powerful live performances and poetic lyrics.
Perry didn’t anticipate any medical issues in the short term, but said “medical contingencies” will be in place throughout the tour. He emphasized that Downie will need to avoid fatigue while on stage.
“We all know he doesn’t sit down in a rocking chair and play banjo, so I think we have to be cautious about things like hydration,” Perry said.
Neither Downie nor his bandmates attended the press conference. The Kingston, Ont., band broke the news online and by press release Tuesday morning.
“This feels like the right thing to do now, for Gord, and for all of us,” said the Hip, whose cerebral smashes include “Blow at High Dough” and “New Orleans Is Sinking,” in announcing the tour.
“What we in the Hip receive, each time we play together, is a connection; with each other; with music and its 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.”
The Tragically Hip’s 14th studio album, “Man Machine Poem,” is set for release June 14. The album was largely completed prior to Downie learning about the tumour, his manager said.
Breen said playing music together is what “they feel best doing as a group.”
“I think it’s appropriate and honestly awesome for everybody involved, to give and receive what happens when this band plays live and what they mean to people and the people to them,” said Breen.
“The hope is that this particular run is like most, which’ll be great and awesome and exciting and everyone will be happy at the end.”
Glioblastoma affects about two to three people per 100,000 in Canada, the United States and Europe, according to information supplied by Sunnybrook. It’s the same type of brain tumour discovered in Ted Kennedy, actress Ethel Merman and former Montreal Expos player Gary Carter.
Follow @dfriend and @cszklarski on Twitter.