Gord Downie's cancer treatable but not curable: docs
Doctors say the type of brain tumour that The Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie has “is more amenable to treatment than most,” but is ultimately incurable.
The beloved Canadian rockers stunned fans early Tuesday with the announcement that their 52-year-old frontman has a terminal form of brain cancer.
In a news conference, Dr. James Perry, the head of neurology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, told reporters that Downie has glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.
They said his tumour is in a location such that it can be treated but not cured.
“It’s my difficult duty today to tell you that Gord Downie’s brain tumor is incurable. He has one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer called glioblastoma,” Perry said.
Perry said Downie developed symptoms in December, 2015, when he had a seizure that led to an emergency room visit. A brain scan revealed a tumour on the left side of his brain that would be impossible to remove completely.
Doctors were able to surgically “excise the bulk of the tumour” and Downie has since undergone 30 radiation therapies. That was followed by chemotherapy treatment that ended one month ago.
One bit of good news is that Downie’s tumour contains a certain protein that “confers longer survival,” Perry said.
“Fortunately for Gord, he has a type of glioblastoma that is more amenable to treatment than most,” he said.
In fact, an MRI scan last week revealed that the swelling in Downie’s head had decreased substantially. “And he is doing very well,” Perry said.
But he added that, since the tumour cannot be completely removed, “unfortunately, one day it will come back.”
What lies ahead is uncertain, Perry said.
There’s “a wide spectrum of prognosis” with glioblastoma, he said, and it’s too early to know his long-term prognosis. But he said, after the treatment that Downie has received, he should be able to perform on tour this summer without any issues.
Despite Downie’s illness, the band announced on their website that they would mount one last tour this summer -- one they said they hoped would be their best yet.
"This feels like the right thing to do now, for Gord, and for all of us," they wrote.
The band’s managers said it would be an all-Canadian tour and that dates and venues would be announced Wednesday.
Band together more than 30 years
The Tragically Hip, known simply as “The Hip” to their fans, formed in 1984 in Kingston, Ont. while the members were still in high school. They have since released more than a dozen studio and live albums, nine of which have reached No. 1 in Canada.
They have also won 14 Juno Awards, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, and had a portion of a downtown Kingston street named after them, "Tragically Hip Way” in 2010.
The band has maintained a loyal following over three decades of music, through Downie’s well-known energetic and humourous on-stage antics, regular cross-country touring, and a multitude of charitable endeavours.
Downie and the band have also penned lyrics that reveal their love of all things Canadian, referencing our country’s history and geography, with nods to Jacques Cartier, the 100th meridian, Bobcaygeon, Millhaven Prison, the Toronto Maple Leafs and more.
In Downie’s evocative and often enigmatic lyrics, many Canadians saw themselves and their own history in ways they hadn’t before, said Eric Alper of eOne Music.
“No other band in Canadian music history has been as able to hold a mirror up to their audience as well as The Tragically Hip. They told our stories. They talked about the people living in our towns,” Alper told CTV News Channel.
“…With this news,” he added, “it’s not just that we’re going to be potentially losing one of Canada’s biggest bands, we’re losing part of Canada as well. And that’s a really hard thing to take.”
Downie has released four albums of his own since 2001, and appeared in the film, ‘Men With Brooms’ as well as an episode of Trailer Park Boys.
Downie, a father of four, revealed in 2012 that his wife, Laura, has been treated for breast cancer, a diagnosis he said that had been hard on the family.
Two years before that, he told The Canadian Press that family had always been a huge influence on his music.
"They inspire everything," he said. "Everything I do, everything I eat, everything I don't eat."
He added: "You settle into the fact that you let these kids affect you in their great and positive ways, and that can only affect your work in great and positive ways."