Cancer’s happy warriors

Looking at the front page of the Globe and Mail today, it’s hard not to make a connection between Jack Layton and Steve Jobs.

Despite being stricken by inoperable and terrible cancers, both men forged ahead undaunted, fueled only by their determination and drive.

One completely renovated a political party bringing it back from the brink and did what all NDPers could only dream of — landing the Official Opposition status in the House of Commons.

The other launched his company brand into the stratosphere by reimagining what technology could do. Just two weeks ago, the house that Jobs built surpassed Exxon Mobil — if only briefly — as the most valuable company in the world.

Alas, with all their smarts and their iron wills, neither Jack Layton nor Steve Jobs could outrun the scourge of mankind. This week, Layton passed after a near mythical fight with cancer. Today, we learned that Steve Jobs will be stepping down as the visionary CEO of Apple, Inc. finally unable to fulfil his role as CEO and chief bottle washer. Cancer appears to be silencing him, too.

While we will remember their achievements, both in politics and in business, what resonates most with people is how these two men stared down cancer and just got on with it all.

Neither, ever, gave up. They continued to work, to scheme, to push until they could push no more. And they both did so with incredible spirit; they were cancer’s two happy warriors who would not let their disease define them.

We have all known people like Jack and Steve, people who rarely get their names in the newspaper, people who soldier on for the sake of their loved ones or the things they believe in. My cousin Butch, who died just two weeks ago, was one of those unsung heroes. He never gave up, not once, and he never lost his spirit.

As we approach that time of year when everyone, it seems, is running or walking for the cure, we should all reach for our chequebooks to say thanks to Jack, to Steve, to Terry Fox and the many other men and women who wore the public face of cancer.

And we should also remember my cousin Butch and others like him, and pay tribute to cancer’s happy warriors in hopes of silencing this deadly disease once and for all.


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