British Columbia

'You have to fight,' says Vancouver Tragically Hip fan with same cancer as Gord Downie

Tragically Hip fans packed Rogers Arena one more time for the second night of the iconic Canadian band's Man Machine Poem tour in Vancouver on Tuesday. But for one fan in the crowd, seeing Hip frontman Gord Downie perform held a special significance.

'I'm still the same person — and sometimes I'm even more happy,' says Ryan Nicholson

Ryan Nicholson stands outside Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Tuesday evening, before the Tragically Hip's second concert at the venue. (CBC)

Tragically Hip fans packed Roger's Arena one more time for the second night of the iconic Canadian band's Man Machine Poem tour in Vancouver on Tuesday.

But for one fan in the crowd, seeing Hip frontman Gord Downie perform held a special significance. 

Ryan Nicholson, 43, was diagnosed with a similar type of brain cancer as 52-year-old Downie revealed in late May. 

"We're doing the same thing," Nicholson said of Downie. "I want to tell him that he's amazing."

'I'm still the same person'

The film and TV makeup artist found out about the tumour in his frontal left temporal lobe after he had his first seizure. 

"My son found me collapsed and he had the ambulance come," Nicholson said. 

The longtime Hip fan underwent emergency surgery, followed by still ongoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment. 

The Tragically Hip's Gord Downie gave an energetic performance at the opening concert of the band's tour in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

Since the surgery, Nicholson sometimes has trouble remembering certain words. Occasionally, he can't remember films he's directed. 

Other changes he has noted include a shift in film preferences from horror to comedy, and a sudden need to become vegetarian.

"It's weird, because it's like you have 7/8 of your brain left," he said. "But for me, it's like, I'm still the same person — and sometimes I'm even more happy."

'He's going to do good'

The cancer, he says, could come back. But that doesn't keep him from moving forward — a trait he sees in Downie as well. 

"Everybody has a certain way of living their life after they get diagnosed, and you really just have to stay up," he said.

"You have to go for it, you have to fight. And I think, for him, that's what he's doing."

Nicholson watched some excerpts of the Hip's first concert of the tour, in Victoria, and was blown away by what he saw. He says what he's seen so far has given him hope for Downie.

"I don't think people should say, 'Oh, six months,' and this kind of stuff. You know what? There's ways to fight it, there's ways to stay positive," he said.

"In my opinion, he's going to do good."

With files from Brenna Rose

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