I am not going to speculate on Official Opposition and NDP Leader Jack Layton’s cancer and condition because the timing of his announcement reminds me too much of the timing of my own catastrophe that it overwhelms other thoughts.
It is awful and frightening when you receive a troubling diagnosis; it is shocking enough when you’re trucking along and either a couple of bad drivers hit you or your doctor sits you down to tell you have cancer. But when you are at the point of achieving your greatest goal — or in Jack’s case having reached it and being placed to reach further — there is something intensely grieving about receiving that kind of news. One moment, you are happy, laughing, loving each day, anticipating with excitement the fulfillment of all your work; the next, you’re facing the death of your dream, and in Jack’s case, perhaps his very life. It is a devastating fall. And the grief both drives you to get better and infects your every moment. The grief rocks your world and rolls your emotions from anger to bawling. Over the long term, it buries hope.
But Jack is probably going to have a relatively short fight, given the nature of cancer; it’s easier to keep up the spirit over months or a few years of active work-interfering treatment than years and years and years. Being a politician, he also has a well of hope that never runs out. For decades, he has faced constant rejection and ridicule from naysayers and political enemies until after this election victory, yet the well of his hope and optimism only became deeper. He has close support in his family and friends and a net of well wishers from one end of Canada to the other, from the south to the north, lifting and holding him up. He will not lose hope, and he is a determined man. I hope for him, and for us, that his dream, that the pursuit of his ultimate achievement will not be derailed.