No plan to feel sorry for himself, LeBlanc says after leukemia diagnosis
Published Wednesday, December 6, 2017 1:00PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 6, 2017 5:12PM EST
OTTAWA – Federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Dominic LeBlanc has been diagnosed with leukemia, and plans to start treatment next week. Despite this, the long-time politician said he has no intention to spend time feeling sorry for himself.
LeBlanc was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia last April, he said in a statement Wednesday. He said it was discovered after a series of tests following an annual physical exam where his doctor detected an anomaly in his white blood cell count.
"I was asymptomatic. Doctors think that I probably had that for a number of years," Le Blanc told reporters on Parliament Hill Wednesday afternoon. He said the only physical manifestation at this stage of his illness is a swollen lymph node.
LeBlanc will begin treatment of the common type of adult leukemia next week, through to spring 2018, his hematologist-oncologist Dr. Nicholas Finn said in the statement. The physician said the minister will have the ability to schedule treatments in a way that will have a minimal impact on his work.
"I will continue a normal routine like other people that have these conditions… I don’t intend to spend a lot of time at home feeling sorry for myself," LeBlanc told reporters.
The treatment will consist of two mornings a month spent at the Moncton hospital where he’ll receive chemoimmunotherapy.
LeBlanc said his first instinct was to not discuss his heath challenges publicly, but he thought if he made enough trips to his local hospital, word would travel.
He said he knows that many Canadians face more difficult health challenges and pledges to not let it impact his ability to do his job.
"My decision to begin the treatments could not have happened at a better time. The parliamentary calendar gives me the flexibility to start right away," LeBlanc said.
MPs are scheduled to break for the holidays on Dec. 15 and are not slated to return until Jan. 29.
LeBlanc has been a Liberal MP since 2000. He represents the New Brunswick riding of Beauséjour.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that he was thinking of him, and that he has his "full support." The two are long-time friends.
LeBlanc said he first discussed the matter with Trudeau in April after receiving the diagnosis, and then spoke with him again last week about his decision to pursue treatment.
"Hugely supportive, we had a light-hearted—we joked with each other, we teased each other… it was a happy moment with two old friends and I left feeling very, very upbeat," LeBlanc said.
During question period Wednesday, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said she couldn’t ask her question until she expressed “what I think is in all of our hearts: best wishes to the minister of fisheries as he faces his new health challenges.” She gave a thumbs up in LeBlanc’s direction, amid applause.
Prior to question period, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters in the House of Commons foyer that the caucus was thinking about LeBlanc.
“We just heard the recent diagnosis so our thoughts and prayers are definitely with him,” Singh said.
Federal cabinet colleagues also expressed well wishes Wednesday.
“We’ll be keeping him close to us in our hearts,” said Labour Minister Patty Hajdu.
Treasury Board President Scott Brison said LeBlanc’s diagnosis is a reminder to all of the importance of getting medical check-ups from time to time. “Thank goodness Dominic had done that and is able now to undergo treatment,” he said.
"Looking forward to knowing that he’s on the road to recovery," said Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott.