What Gord Downie’s Cancer Has Taught Me

EDITED on October 17, 2017. Gord Downie passed away peacefully with his family by his side. What he did for us as Canadians in particular will never, ever be forgotten. Rest in peace, Gord. We are kissing you on the lips.

Gord Downie, frontman for The Tragically Hip, a Canadian rock band better known simply as, The Hip, was diagnosed with brain cancer in May of 2016.

It is tragic; certainly no pun intended.

It is tragic because cancer SUCKS.

And no one deserves it. No one.

I have seen it ravage the bodies of friends and loved ones and the loved ones of friends.

I have witnessed the pain it brings to the patient and I’ve felt the pain it brings to those who love them.

But what I have also found is that cancer brings out the humanity in all of us. We speak a little softer, touch a little lighter, and we offer to help in ways we could never find time for before cancer had us tending to all its needs.

The Farewell Concert

Millions watched as Gord and his band bid farewell in their hometown of Kingston, Ontario on Saturday night. CBC generously televised and live-streamed the show so we could all share in the celebration of life while the man still lives; while he is still able to sing his words and be with his people.

Not everyone gets a living wake. Not everyone gets to feel what they mean to the people they have touched over the years, and I believe Canada made a sick man’s wish come true…and we are grateful to have been able to show our love, our support, our grief and our pain while we breathed in the energy of that experience.

A once-in-a-lifetime experience.

There was a point in the concert that hit us all a little harder; that touched our souls on that deep, human, emotional level; the kind that causes the back of our throats to tighten and the insides of our ears to hurt.

Watch the one minute that reminded us all of what it means to be human.

And feel all the feels.

When Gord clenched his teeth and squeezed out the tears, I felt that pain so deep, it was like I had swallowed it myself.

When he cried that gutteral scream, it echoed into every part of my soul and crushed each and every one of us. In that moment, he reminded us of how fragile and precious our lives are…and how lucky we were to be alive…and how blessed we were to be experiencing that truly human moment with him.

And when he drops the mic and folds his arms and turns aside, it reminded me of a child who doesn’t get their way. I felt the boy inside of him wondering why things had to be like this…wondering, “why me?”

And when he reaches down and picks the mic back up and places it back in its stand, I felt the surrender of that moment, too. 

Living In The Moment

Gord’s cancer has reminded us that in an instant, things will be different. And that we must be grateful now; not someday, not “when I have this” or “when I get that”, but now. Here. In this moment.

This human, whose music became our music; music that has been imprinted on our memories, entwined with our feelings, will live on in each and every one of us. Forever.


And so it got me thinking: “What if we could realize our own frailty during each moment? What if we could show compassion for one another all the time, not just when we are diagnosed with a life-threatening disease?”

What if we could love one another and be grateful for the precious time we have on earth, while we are here, healthy and vibrant, not only when we are fighting for our lives?

I know it sounds trite. We hear it all the time; “be grateful every day. Be grateful for your breath. For the wind in your face. The sound of the birds”.

But if we can truly connect to that kind of gratitude; the kind that has us saying “thank you” for even the seemingly smallest things, then we can change ourselves in profound ways. And we can change our lives.

Because gratitude changes everything.

And what I have shared with all of you many times is that once I got sober and developed a passion for health, putting my own health front and centre, I realized how deeply grateful I needed to be for this amazing body I get to live in. Every day.

And my passion; my mission is to help others feel the same. To deeply understand that how we feed our bodies and our minds dramatically impacts our health.

We can’t control everything; but we can reduce our risk of cancer through the choices we make. This has been scientifically proven time and again.

We Provoke Cancer

The truth is, we don’t get cancer. We provoke cancer. 

Every day, our bodies are killing off cancer cells.

We all have cancer.

Dr. William Li, MD, Cancer Researcher, President and Medical Director of the Angiogenesis Foundation says that “every single person absolutely has microscopic cancers growing inside of them”. He explains that “the human body is made up of more than 50 trillion cells that are continuously dividing to keep us healthy. But if just one of those cells makes a mistake or ‘mutates’, then we have formed a potentially microscopic cancer. The good news is that most of these abnormal cells will never become dangerous because our bodies have excellent defenses against cancer. Our immune system is one defense and another defense is our body’s ability to resist blood vessels from growing into and feeding cancers.”

So, what causes these harmless microscopic cancers to develop into full blown cancer? Dr. Li says “doing things that provoke the development of cancer!  Like getting too much sun and exposure to cigarette smoke, first or secondhand. Like drinking excessive alcohol and eating too much processed meat.” He explains that “the body has a hard time digesting the preservatives and nitrates in processed foods and they actually accumulate in our bodies becoming carcinogen. Anything that dwells in the body that can provoke cancer cells is bad for you.”

Dr. Li also explains that “we can add things to our life that can boost our body’s cancer defense systems. Like exercise and getting enough restorative sleep. Eating foods that contain anti-angiogenic properties (starving cancer cells) like fruits and vegetables with high nutrient and antioxidant compounds”.

Of course, there is also early detection, like in the cases of breast cancer, where women can dramatically improve their chances of beating the disease by performing self breast exams at the same time each month, away from menstruation (where breasts can become tender and lumpy naturally). Breast tissue is found all the way up to the breastbone to down below the breast line and in the armpit area, so be sure not to overlook these areas.

Let’s do what we can to nourish and nurture our bodies and our minds by being mindful, eating well, moving our bodies, practicing self-care, and experiencing gratitude in every moment.

Thank You, Gord.

I believe that Gord would be pleased to know that his cancer is reminding us of what’s important. But let’s keep going. Let’s not allow Saturday night to become an experience we file in our memory bank, but rather an impetus for change.

I love you, Gord. Thank you for all you have brought to my life and the lives of millions who you touch with the way you view the world and the way you share your view through your music.

We are not saying goodbye, yet, either. We are still with you, rooting for you, loving you and supporting you.

Because I want you to love your life one bite at a time.

P.S. In my book, The 28 Day Kick The Sugar Challenge, I provide a step-by-step plan to help you discover more self-awareness, develop strategies to make eating healthy a way of life, and I offer over 90 tested recipes that your whole family will  love. Please consider investing in your health with this resource. I so badly want to get my book into the hands of everyone who can use it, that I am not even profiting from the sales; I simply ask you to cover my costs. To find out more and to order your own copy, please visit KTSC28.com. Thank you. 

P.P.S. I hope this chart helps you to seek out foods that will help you stay healthy for years to come. 

Source: http://www.anewdayanewme.com/dr-oz-antioxidants-fighting-the-war-on-cancer-with-prevention/

Antioxidant Source Benefits
beta-carotene – red and yellow plants carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, cantaloupe stops formation of free radicals which damage cells. May prevent lung and kidney cancer.
lycopene – red flesh foods cooked tomatoes and tomato sauces, red/pink grapefruit, guavas reduced risk of prostate cancer, heart disease, lung cancer cervical, cancer bladder cancer, cancer and prostate cancer
lutein collards, spinach, kale promotes healthy vision. helps prevents macular degeneration and cataracts.
anthocyanins – purple/red pigmented foods blueberries, purple grapes, red cabbage, black beans, kidney beans, purple potatoes, helps cellular antioxidant defenses which contributes to cancer prevention, promotes healthy brain function
flavanones – citrus foods lemons, grapefruit, oranges neutralize damaging free radicals
aiding in cancer prevention
flavonols yellow onions, scallions, kale, broccoli, apples, berries, teas neutralize damaging free radicals
aiding in cancer prevention
Isothiocyanates – cruciferous vegetables. Don’t boil but sautee or steam. broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage,  caulifower, kale, Swiss chard, parsley detoxifies harmful chemicals, intercept and destroy free radicals, reduces risk of ovarian and breast cancers
Diallyl sulfide, Allyl methyl trisulfide onions, scallions, leeks, garlic helps detoxify body of harmful chemicals. Promotes healthy immune and heart  function and aids in cancer prevention.

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