Cancer survivor and Hip fan shares his love and hope with Gord Downie


Yaron Butterfield wanted to share his story of cancer survival with Gord Downie, to whom he wrote a shorter message on his website, but wanted to write a longer letter.

Yaron Butterfield is one of eight people who shared his story of glioblastoma in interviews with the Star. Butterfield is a long-term survivor and meets with glioblastoma patients every month, with the aim of giving them hope they too can stave off the cancer longer than predicted. Butterfield wanted to share that with Gord Downie, to whom he wrote a shorter message on his website, but wanted to write a longer letter. “I don’t know what he’s been told . . . but he seems like a very positive guy. I’m letting him know, Hey, you can survive a long time — look at me,” says Butterfield, who’s a Tragically Hip fan.

The brain cancer Gord Downie has, they say is terminal. But life is terminal. No one knows how long we have. There are the statistics and there is reality. That’s what was in my mind when I entered Rogers Arena, in Vancouver. I had on my blue Tragically Hip shirt, and I was so excited to get to my seat. I didn’t even stop to get a beer or nachos.

The anticipation was building as I fumbled my way in the dark to find my place amongst the thousands of fans, every one of whom was standing and cheering. As the concert went on, there were moments where Gord looked straight at me. Like we were connected. I know it’s me just believing that. But here’s the thing, a doctor told me I had the same brain cancer Gord has. Over the years, I have spent time getting to know people who had also been diagnosed with that cancer and it is hard seeing some of them not make it.

The prognosis is not good.

Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) is a type of brain cancer where 90 per cent die by five years after diagnosis. Gord’s cancer, from what I understand, is in the same part of the brain as mine was. He is receiving the same treatment I received. Same chemo, same radiation. In fact, radiation today is even more accurate in targeting the tumour than when I had it.

But there it is, that’s why I felt connected at the concert. Like we were old buddies. If we met, I would tell Gord that there is no reason he cannot be a long-term survivor. I would also say that during treatment and after, always stay strong, positive and hopeful. Because I’m not dead and I was diagnosed almost 13 years ago.

Back then, though, my head was half bald and I always made sure to wear my version of the Fifty-Mission Cap. After throwing up my chemo pills in my fourth week of treatment, I was taken off chemotherapy as it was causing my white blood cells to drop to a near fatal level. As I sat getting transfusions I had no idea what was next, if treatment was having any effect at all in shrinking the tumour, or how long I was going to live.


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