One year ago, Canadian moguls skier Justine Dufour-Lapointe and her sisters announced that their mom, Johane, had won her battle with cancer and was in remission.
On Thursday, the youngest of the Dufour-Lapointe sisters wanted to send a message of encouragement to another victim of the disease, whom she knows well.
Canadian snowboarder Max Parrot announced last week he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and would end his 2018-19 season to devote his time and energy to fighting cancer.
When news broke of Parrot’s health, Dufour-Lapointe was in Lake Placid, N.Y., for a World Cup moguls stop. The Montreal native, set to compete near home at a World Cup stop this weekend at Mont-Tremblant, said it was difficult to keep focus after learning about her friend. But she swears that had nothing to do with her disappointing 19th-place finish overall.
“I really, really thought about him,” she said, taking a deep breath to hold back her tears. “It was a big heartache, that’s for sure. Cancer has been part of our lives for two years now, and it’s the worst thing that can happen to anyone.
“I sympathize a lot with Maxence.”
“I cannot imagine how he must feel,” she added. “Of course it’s a big challenge he has in front of him, but at the same time I’m sure his youth, his passion and his competitive spirit will help him. I know he’s capable, that’s for sure. If my mother beat it, I have no doubt that Maxence will win his fight too.”
The 24-year-old said she met often with Parrot during last year’s Pyeongchang Olympics.
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“I think we all have a little tiger inside of us who’s hungry, and when there’s such a clear goal (to defeat cancer), I think it’s easy to light the fire,” Dufour-Lapointe said.
The Olympic champion at the 2014 Sochi Games, Dufour-Lapointe feels Parrot’s entourage, as well as his psychological profile as an elite athlete, will help him fight cancer.
“As an athlete, we face challenges every day, and we need to find solutions quickly,” she said. “You cannot wait or postpone the problems you are facing. And that affects us in all spheres of activity — as much on the technical level as on the aerial level, in physio, for the treatments, it’s everywhere — but we are well supported.”
Dufour-Lapointe said she read that staying active can help people who suffer from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“So, in my opinion, the fact that he is an athlete is his best chance of beating it,” she said. “If he needs to talk, I’m here for him. Because I think that’s what’s hardest in those moments, you feel very lonely. Of course, I never experienced it personally, but my mother lived it and I was very affected by it.
“So that’s what I have to offer him: my ear.”
She didn’t have to look far to justify her optimism for Parrot. Her mother was at her side Thursday at the bottom of the slopes at Mont-Tremblant.
Meanwhile, the training sessions were cancelled Thursday due to poor weather conditions. The athletes will be able to practise Friday, before qualifying and the final on Saturday.