(416) 532-5514 robhawke@gmail.com

A Showdown At The Patient Corral

The patient experience can be a crazy thing. Often it is more emotional than we think and these feelings can come out at times that are absolutely not convenient. I remember when I had just been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I thought I took the news pretty darn well. In the doctor’s office, I had been fine. However, out in the world it was a completely different matter. You may not be aware of this but cab drivers and cyclists have a deep abiding love for each other. Truly, we stop at red lights and take the opportunity to give each other affectionate and lingering hugs. Actually that is not really accurate. In fact, you could say that cab drivers and cyclists don’t get along at all. I was riding north on University Ave in Toronto (a major street with a ton of traffic on it) when a cab driver pulled up to me in the next lane and cut me off.

badass cyclist

(This is not me.)

I slammed on my brakes and came to a skidding stop; inches from his back bumper. We shared a few words with each other that were not “Happy Birthday”. Ordinarily that would have been it and we would have each gone our separate ways. But no! I was under the influence of a cancer diagnosis which was baking in my psyche like a bubbling toxic cake. Suddenly, my perceptions changed. The buildings of University Ave seemed to fall away and were replaced by the façade of main street from the old west town of tombstone. I stood facing the cab driver in tense silence. A tumble weed drifted by. The town bell clanged twelve times for noon.

cowboys

The cab driver spoke. “Draw!” I coiled all the rage I had into my throbbing right arm and like lightning I drew my six shooter from the holster strapped to my leg. I aimed down the barrel at my adversary and I realized…that I had completely lost my mind! There I was on University Ave in a shouting match with a cab driver. We were both filled with rage. Oh sure we had something to disagree about but no one was hurt and we both could have just got on with our day. But no, I had completely dove in to the conflict like this was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. Did I have the right to be angry? Sure! Was this the best way to handle it? Nope.

Somewhere in the depths of my brain a little voice sad “Rob, calm down! You’re acting like a maniac!” So I literally took a step back, got on my bike and went home. I’m sure that I would have handled it differently if I wasn’t completely shocked by having this thing called cancer, but I didn’t. It made me realize that sometimes we think we have dealt with something on an emotional level but our psyches need to catch up with our logical minds. This can make us do strange things, like think we’re Clint Eastwood on University Ave. Wherever you are and whatever your story is, hang in there and watch out for tumble weeds.

Clint Gif

Thank You Young Adult Cancer Canada!

Sometimes the best days start almost driving into a cornfield.

You remember that bit in the office where Michael and Dwight are in a rental car and following a GPS? They scream at each other in confusion and Michael ends up driving straight into a river? Well that almost happened to my friend Geremy and I recently on the way to a gig for Young Adult Cancer Canada. We were on our way to Cobourg to a retreat centre and were frantically looking for our destination. We were lost and the GPS wasn’t helping. We sped through the rolling farmland which would have been beautiful if we weren’t freaking out because we were late. I kept telling Geremy. “Its going to be OK, Its over the next hill , I know it!” He was less enamored of the technology. “I don’t know man, this doesn’t feel right!” The clock was not our friend as it ticked ever closer to the time we were actually supposed to be performing. Suddenly the GPS perked up and sounded particularly sure of itself as it announced “Please take a sharp left. Your destination is 10 metres away.” We looked to turn left-into a corn field. This didn’t look like any retreat centre I’d seen.  We managed not to ruin the farmer’s crop and after pleading for help from people in a van buying eggs (no really), we ended up being literally escorted right to our destination. Score one for actual human contact!

We essentially walked in and started our presentation immediately. A room full of remarkably enthusiastic people greeted us and we had an absolute blast. We opened with some Improv and laughter exercises which got everyone cookin’ and then Geremy taught everybody to make homemade ice cream. Seriously. Homemade icecream. That’s what I call a good Saturday morning, and we didn’t even drive in to a river.

Hats off to the terrific people at Yonng Adult Cancer Canada. Your courage and positive energy are inspiring.

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My Friend The Jedi

jediI had just grabbed my second coffee of the morning and was propping myself up with some much needed caffeine when I heard someone calling my name. “Rob Rob! Wait!”. A friend of mine rushed into the elevator and stopped the doors mid close. She piled on slightly out of breath and immediately started cracking me up on our way down to ELLICSR in the basement of TGH. A surgery she was scheduled for had been delayed and she did a hilarious imitation of the physician who delivered the news as Christopher Walken. I was in stitches.

She was funny, smart and better than many comedians I’ve seen on TV. The kicker was she has cancer and is going through treatment.

 

What gives? What is going on that someone I know who is going through a huge challenge in her life is bright bubbly and downright happy? On the surface it makes no sense at all. According to conventional wisdom, she should be ringing her hands and feeling terrible about the whole thing, yet she managed to cheer me up while I was going back to work. Was this some kind of Jedi mind trick that she was playing? Perhaps. Is she some kind of super being who can transcend pain and struggle? Maybe. My friend is very resilient but I also think that her mood really speaks to how we as people tend to get on with our lives regardless of what is going on. She was able to find comfort, hope and dare I say it, even a bit of happiness in her day.  To me it was this big event and I think to her, she was just going about being herself.

I’m not saying we should all expect this of ourselves. Heck, not at all. There are times when we are sad or angry or having a tough day when it is completely natural, normal and healthy to express the fact that we feel lousy. I also think that there are times when we can sneak a little bit of happiness or even joy into the process in spite of what is going on. If we can pull it off, we’ll look like Jedi Masters. I’m sure Obi Wan would be proud.

“Surviving Cancer with Humour” (A Great Article from Inside Toronto)

 “Sketch and improv comedian Robert Hawke was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in May 2005. He responded not with self-pity, but with comedy.” Justin Skinner

Check out a wonderful article written about my cancer journey, written by Justin Skinner: http://www.insidetoronto.com/what’s%20on/article/1233962–surviving-cancer-with-humour

See you at the Book Launch tomorrow, Ben Wick’s @ 8 PM, Cabbagetown!  Details below…

Cheers, Rob