New Brunswick

Hip concert 'etched on my heart,' says fan with same cancer as Gord Downie

Jason DeRoche of Moncton has the same brain cancer as The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie and was given tickets to Saturday's show in Kingston, Ont.

Brother of band's drummer gave Jason DeRoche of Moncton free tickets to Kingston show

Fan with same cancer as Gord Downie calls concert 'an unbelievable memory'

5 years ago
Brother of Tragically Hip's drummer gave Jason DeRoche of Moncton free tickets to Kingston show. 1:17

A Moncton man who has the same brain cancer as Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie says being in the audience for band's tour finale in Kingston on Saturday is "etched on my heart."

Jason DeRoche was given two of the hard-to-come-by tickets for the final show after his wife made a plea on Facebook for tickets for her husband, a long-time fan.

"It's an unbelievable memory that is etched on my heart and I will never be able to forget it," DeRoche said of Saturday's sold-out performance.

DeRoche made it home to Moncton from the concert at 1:30 a.m. Monday, so he didn't get much sleep before his appointment a few hours later at the Moncton Hospital.

"I kept thinking and reliving the moment and then I had radiation therapy at 8:30 [a.m.] this morning."

Same cancer as Downie

DeRoche has glioblastoma, the same incurable brain cancer as Downie.

DeRoche said he didn't mind losing sleep to travel to Kingston and back over the weekend because being at the concert watched by an estimated one-third of Canadians did more for his morale and strength than a few hours of rest ever could.

After DeRoche's story was posted on Facebook and picked up on by CBC, Paul Fay, the brother of Hip drummer Johnny Fay, contacted the 39-year-old DeRoche and offered him the tickets.

DeRoche said he will never forget the gesture.

"Saturday morning, the morning of the concert, Paul Fay calls us and says, you know, 'I have the tickets, can you meet me in the hotel lobby,'" said DeRoche.

"And I'm trying not to give him a big hug," said DeRoche. "I'm just shaking his hand and I'm in tears and he's getting a little choked up and then, it became real."

Inspiration from Downie

Jason DeRoche will never forget his experiences at the final leg of The Tragically Hip's most recent tour. He has the same kind of brain cancer as Gord Downie and was given two free tickets to the sought after concert by the band's drummer. (Submitted)
In the weeks leading up to Saturday's concert, DeRoche said he sometimes felt down. He suffered loss of feeling on one side of his body, and wasn't motivated to do the exercises his doctor prescribed. He said that changed after watching Downie's performance from the first stop on the tour in Victoria.

"He's 52 years old he's dancing around on stage with all this energy. I'm 39, what's my problem?" said DeRoche.

"It really inspired for me to push harder and push harder and push harder, and all last week, we practiced to stand up for two hours — and we ended up standing for six hours with everything that was going on."

VIP party

DeRoche didn't get to meet Downie at the VIP party after the concert like he'd hoped, but there was at least one famous face there.

"We did see Prime Minister Trudeau, being very cool."

The Tragically Hip, with lead singer Gord Downie, played almost non-stop for just under three hours for the band's final show in the Man Machine Poem tour at the K-Rock Centre in Kingston, Ont., on Saturday night. (CBC)
Now that all the excitement is over, DeRoche has two more weeks of radiation therapy and expects to continue chemotherapy treatments for the rest of the year.

But he said being there in person when his favourite band took the stage and played 50 Mission Cap, was the best therapy of all.

"I felt like teenager again when I first heard the song and people singing, 7,000 people singing every word to every song belting it out as loud as they can, it was, it was such a collective experience but a personal one at the same time."

"This has been the experience of a lifetime, I'll never forget it."


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