I am so sad I cannot go see The Tragically Hip concert today even though I live so ridiculously close to the venue. Tonight, the rock band will perform their final show at the K-Rock Centre in Kingston, with CBC broadcasting the event, as well as a big screen set up at the market square of downtown Kingston for the entire city to enjoy the show. It will be crazy. Parking will be limited but Kingston Transit is offered free the entire day! 

Over the last few days, I have heard so much about Gordon Downie on the radio, with many stories of him growing up in Amherstview and Kingston. It sounds like he was a cool kid, down to earth – wish I get to know him personally. I always enjoy the music.  Kingston has officially declared today as the Tragically Hip Day. It’s historic.

This final tour came about because Gordon Downie has been diagnosed a terminal brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumour. It is an aggressive form of brain cancer that is primarily managed by surgery and radiation therapy, with chemotherapy being the adjuvent therapy. When he found out about his diagnosis, he did not rush to receive treatment immediately. Instead, the band decided to give  Canada a final tour, sharing their music and along the way, engage in fundraising activities for cancer research.

This is brilliant. Perhaps because the treatment outcome is so unpredictable, it makes sense for Gordon Downie to finish off his bucket list before beginning his treatment. How often do we let our patients time and space to reflect before we inform them to start their treatments? Now if they are having sepsis or having a heart attack, there is no time to “reflect”.  But for some of the more chronic conditions such as COPD and diabetes, how often do we allow our patients to reflect on what life will be without treatment in 20 or 40 years? Do we adequately paint a possible picture for our patients? That perhaps a COPD patient may be eventually connected to an oxygen tank indefinitely, or a diabetic patient will require amputation of their legs and wheelchair-bound forever?

Instead of handing over a prescription of metformin or Spiriva at the onset of diabetes and COPD, perhaps we should share a glimpse of what life may be like in 40 years time if they don’t make changes to their lifestyle?  Gordon Downie knows it may be unpredictable what his life may be after he begins his treatment of the terminal brain cancer. He wants to capture the best memories for his band and for Canada. Perhaps we should learn from him to increase awareness of outcome in chronic disease progression, let our patients reflect and hopefully be more motivated to make wise decisions for their own health. After all, disease awareness is perhaps a more effective strategy for optimal health than an actual prescription for medication.

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