As Gord Downie’s neuro-oncologist, Dr. James Perry knew his patient would face mental and physical challenges while on stage for The Tragically Hip’s cross-Canada tour but admits he never doubted the frontman’s conviction, boldness and energy as a performer.
“I was impressed. That’s what I can say. The best moment for me was the very first time they took the stage in Victoria, in those crazy suits he’s wearing now were designed even before his diagnosis,” Perry said during an interview on Global’s The Morning Show.
“My wife was with me at that particular show and she said, ‘Wow, that’s what hope looks like.'”
Downie, who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer after suffering a seizure last December, continues to inspire Canadians from coast-to-coast as The Hip forge on with their Man Machine Poem Tour which begins a three-set concert stop in Toronto this week.
“You need to be highly motivated, maintain your fitness level. He’s done all of those things. So I’m not surprised to see he can do this because he was so motivated to do this,” Perry, head of neurology at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, said about Downie’s fatigue level on tour.
“The level of strength and courage, the energy that he needs to do this is well beyond what most people can do.”
Perry said The Tragically Hip singer is not receiving active treatment while on tour, however doctors are monitoring his health closely.
“He’s stopped his up front treatments and it was perfectly timed, fortuitously timed for the tour,” he said.
Downie, 52, hit the road following surgery and treatment for glioblastoma, a rare cancer Perry says is diagnosed between four and seven out of every 100,000 Canadians.
“Everyone’s tumour is so different just like people are different. So there are people that might succumb within six months of their diagnosis,” explained Perry.
“Just the other day I saw a woman from my first day in practice, 20 years ago. Same tumour.”
Perry said fans who haven’t yet seen Downie and The Hip on tour the past two weeks will be in for quite a treat.
“For the fans, it’s going to be an incredible show. They’ll blow the roof off the ACC. It is such a dynamic, energy filled show. With the emotion from the news, the shows have been loud. They’ve been emotional. People have been crying. It’s just a joy to be there.”
The final show is scheduled for Aug. 20 in the group’s hometown of Kingston, Ont.
Meanwhile, Sunnybrook Hospital released a touching video of staff singing The Hips’ Courage as a tribute to Downie and those who have donated to the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research.
Among them was Anne Lund, who lost her daughter to a brain tumour in 2012.
“I love The Hip. And I wanted to thank Gord Downie for another tour,” she said.
Lund said she was thinking of her daughter, Downie and his family as she sang.
“He continues to live his life to the fullest in spite what he’s going through,” she said. “He’s doing his concerts, he’s raising money, he’s living until he dies.”
With a file from Angie Seth
VIDEO: The Tragically Hip tour kicks off 3 concert stop in Toronto