Categories for Musings

My friend Mike Sloan, in the Sun

By Mike Sloan, Special to Postmedia Network

“You have cancer.”

Every year, thousands of Canadians hear this from their doctors. It’s frightening, confusing, and outright scary. In February, it was my turn.

A myriad of options were offered. We can radiate this. We can do chemotherapy. All, in the hope of extending my life.

We live in a world where many cancers are highly treatable, and the hope for recovery is high. We are, and should be, thankful for the many great advances in cancer treatment.

However, despite our best hopes, some cancers are simply not well understood or treatable. This was my revelation. A few months after I lost my voice, I was diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer. It’s a rare cancer that afflicts as few as one or two people in a million. My prognosis was grim from the start.

A surgeon and two oncologists suggested chemotherapy and radiation in the hope it may slow the cancer down. But that was merely a hope. No guarantees. I opted out, because I couldn’t make sense of being sick from the treatment in what was likely to be my last summer.

The summer is almost over now, and my cancer is closing in. I’m having more difficulty breathing and swallowing. It feels like there is a huge, growing, hunk of mucous in my throat that I can’t clear. I’d been told to expect this. The cancer is tightening its grip on my esophagus. Eventually, it will simply close and I won’t be able to swallow. Or, breathe.

I knew, going in, this would be the outcome.

Last week, the doctor told me I had, possibly, 6-10 more weeks to live. I accepted it. I’ve been expecting this. I still look and feel relatively healthy and it’s almost hard to believe this is happening. But, I’m entirely aware this is going to kill me.

I don’t have a fear of dying. I can handle that. But, the notion of choking or struggling to breathe really horrifies me. I don’t want to choke to death.

Thankfully, I have the choice of medical assistance in death. Barring some other possible event, that is how I choose to die.

Some people, in good faith, say, “don’t give up on hope.” But, hope isn’t a plan or a solution. Hope can’t guarantee I won’t struggle to breathe at the end.

I’m extremely grateful for the time I’ve had, knowing what was coming. Although I’m dying, the months between diagnosis and death have been incredibly rewarding, positive, and beautiful. I’ve never felt more connected to people, or more cared about in my life. At end of life, it’s a wonderful way to leave the world.

Deciding on treatment options for any disease should always be left in the hands of the patient. If you’re told “you have cancer,” do your research, talk to your doctors and make your own decision. It’s your life. Do what’s right for you.

Above all, use your time to reconnect with those who’ve meant much to you. Say what you want to say. End of life should be without regrets.

Enjoy your time while you have it.

Mike Sloan has shared his cancer story with the world on Twitter, the same way he shared his wry observations on life before he was diagnosed with terminal illness. Despite the prognosis, his sense of humour hasn’t flagged. Nor, has his brutal honesty about life as he faces his final days.

Bullshit debate about debates

…and Sheila Copps, fresh from assorted bigoted attacks on Jody Wilson-Raybould, is all over it. Surprise, surprise.

I have a response.

Here it comes

Bets on outcome?

Help wanted

Daisy is growing – again!

We are looking for smart researchers and writers with a love of politics and a willingness to take on challenging (but fun) assignments.

Email your CV to Rob Gilmour at Rob at Daisy Group dot ca!

Thirty-five years ago right now

September 4, 1984: 35 years ago today, I was on an Air Canada flight from Ottawa, heading home to Calgary to start law school. The pilot came on the blower. 

“For those of you who are wondering, we are hearing that the Liberal Party has lost every one of its seats,” he said. “And we have a new Conservative majority government.”

The plane erupted in cheers and applause – lots of it. Having just said goodbye to many of my Liberal friends at Ottawa polling stations, and having just finished working for a Liberal cabinet minister on the Hill, I slid further into my seat. A woman beside me noticed I wasn’t as deliriously happy as everyone else. 

“I take it your friends have lost?” she asked. 

“You could say that,” I said. 

On the ground in Calgary, my Dad was there to collect me. We silently listened to John Turner’s concession speech on the way back to my folks’ home on the Bow River. Near the end, Turner said: “The people are always right.’ 

“I’m not so sure about that,” I responded, but – on reflection – I reckoned that Turner was indeed correct: the people are always right. 

And the people had chosen Brian Mulroney, in record numbers. More than seventy-five per cent of eligible voters turned out to give Mulroney an astonishing 211 seats. The Liberals were reduced to a paltry 40 – only ten ahead of the New Democrats.

So began the Mulroney era, and a decade in the wilderness for the Liberal Party of Canada. It was an extraordinary decade, a time of great change, and it is hard to believe it all started 35 years ago today. 

Not many in the media marked Mulroney’s September 4, 1984 triumph, and that is a shame. He changed Canada – not always for the good, but not entirely for the bad, either. 

Meech Lake, Charlottetown, and assorted ministerial resignations, are always cited as the principal failures of the Mulroney era. But the former Conservative leader had successes, too: free trade, which his Liberal successor – my future boss, Jean Chretien – refused to undo. So, too, some of his major economic reforms, which arguably helped return the federation to balanced budgets and surpluses. 

To not a few of us, his most singular achievement was his unflagging opposition to South Africa’s evil apartheid system. This placed him squarely against his closest conservative allies, Britain’s Margaret Thatcher and America’s Ronald Reagan. But Mulroney’s determination to end apartheid put him on the right side of history – and earned him the enduring friendship of Nelson Mandela. 

Why does all this matter now, 35 long years later? Two reasons.

First, Mulroney extraordinary victory on September 4, 1984 – and the historic events that followed that day – should not be forgotten. Whether you approve of his tenure or not, Mulroney truly changed Canada. 

The second reason really has nothing to do with Brian Mulroney at all. The second reason we should recall September 4 is this: when democratic political change comes, it sometimes comes in a way that is dramatic, decisive, and defining. It can be shocking.

That may be good, that may be bad. Depends on the team you belong to, I suppose.

One thing cannot be disputed, however:

As on September 4, 1984, as today, the people are always right.

NDP ad: this is really good

And their slogan – In It For You – is way better than the ungrammatical word salads the Grits and the Tories have conjured up. Way.

As I just told Evan Solomon on CFRA, everyone is dancing around the real problem Jagmeet Singh is facing. And that problem is racism, full stop.

That’s partly why this ad is so good. It shines a spotlight on their biggest challenge, and it works.

Well done, Dippers.