August 4, 2016 6:55 pm
Updated: August 4, 2016 7:03 pm

Amazing story of ‘Courage’ from Tragically Hip fan who lost out on tickets to show

WATCH: Thu, Aug 4: The Tragically Hip will be playing to sold out crowds in Toronto next week. One super-fan has a heartbreaking reason for wanting to see lead singer Gord Downie perform. Christina Stevens reports.


When former carpenter Bill Neilson works on small projects in his garage, he always has the Tragically Hip playing in the background.

He idolizes lead singer Gord Downie.

“He’s a Canadian first of all, and he is a poet,” said Neilson.

When Neilson heard Downie was diagnosed with brain cancer, it hit hard.

“He’s loved by a lot of people and the whole band you know, sorry,” Neilson said, pausing to fight back tears.

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“It’s a big thing, because I know what I went through when I had a brain tumour. The surgery that goes with it is scary as hell, and you don’t know what’s going to come out of it, if you are going to be able to breathe, going to know the friendly faces, the faces you know,” he explained.

READ MORE: ‘To send a message’: Winnipeg police arrest scalpers ahead of Tragically Hip concert

After six surgeries over nearly a decade and losing most of his sight, Neilson said he feels lucky.

But his heart breaks for Downie.

After all, Neilson and his wife June have built countless memories around The Hip concerts.

Downie’s lyrics have given Nielson strength, one song in particular — “Courage.”

READ MORE: Gord Downie’s flashy tour wardrobe ‘a celebration’

“Got to be strong, strong. If you have courage you can do anything,” he said.

But the couple wasn’t lucky enough to get tickets before the concerts sold out.

Nielson can’t work anymore, so they can’t afford scalper tickets.

But they are not letting it get them down.

If they have to, they’ll watch The Hip online, on their back porch, together.

READ MORE: Tragically Hip lottery gives fans another shot at concert tickets

Every memory counts.

Neilson said if the tumour comes back, he will not undergo any more surgeries.

“No, I refuse to have anymore. I’m going to hold my loved ones and do more and more that I can do.”

Nielson said he wishes he could thank Downie for giving him the “Courage” to fight for every moment.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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