As Gord Downie closed the show with kisses to the cheeks of his bandmates and nods of gratitude to the 20,000 fans in Vancouver, the courage the lead singer displayed overwhelmed me. It saddened me, too. Downie, my cultural hero, is battling the same awful disease -- glioblastoma multiforme -- that took the life of my wife, Julia Pelish-Brijbassi, 137 days ago.
Every day, 27 Canadians are diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. On April 7 of this year, 26 of them were strangers to me. The one who wasn't, the one whose text message -- "please come home ...I have the bad brain cancer" -- is seared into my memory like the deepest of scars, the one whose eyes I've sought for strength, resolve, security and acceptance for two decades, is my wife.
This year, I decided to participate in my first Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. I want to bring hope to those living with cancer and the people who surround them. I was given three to five years to live, and today I am living stronger, healthier and happier then ever, five years after my diagnosis.
Six years ago, my husband Matthew was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiform, the most common and deadliest of brain cancers. As Matthew's primary caregiver, I've come to recognize that coping in the face of a terminal illness is a learned skill, and sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what works.
When it comes to fighting brain tumours, having a strong and supportive team is the greatest weapon. I've been a social worker on the neurosurgery floor of a hospital for over 26 years. As one of the first people to have contact with a newly diagnosed brain tumour patient, I can attest that a strong network, a resilient team, is one of the greatest assets a patient, and their families, can equip themselves with as they begin this new chapter of their lives.
A brain tumour is a scary thing. You can't see it growing, you can't feel it growing. It hides behind your eyes and watches you live your life... waiting until someone notices something a little "off" about you. My mother-in-law had a malignant brain tumour. Everyone's experience with one is different. This is hers.