The Cancer Diaries: That Time We Met Ron James

A few weeks back, Jennette sat in the exam chair at the Ottawa Hospital, surrounded by the usual suspects, a group of hunky doctors with sad eyes.
They were there to deliver the bad news -- her mouth cancer had returned with a vengeance. The tumor, they told her, was now the size of a baby's foot and rested in the exact location where doctor's had cut out a chunk of her lower mouth two years ago.
It was news we had both been expecting, ever since she told me that the shape of her jaw was actually changing, and that she had developed a painful sore on the bottom of her chin. Still, it felt like the docs were serving her a warmed-over shit sandwich without even a pickle.
I took her out for coffee, and we talked around the subject. She was both shaken and stirred.
"Okay, so what's on your bucket list?" I asked her as I sipped an over-priced chai tea.
She shot me a look, the same one she used to give Roger when he'd eaten all the peanut butter cookies.
"What bucket list?"
It really was a ridiculous question.
I mean, what do you get for the woman who has everything: osteoporosis so bad she can break a bone crossing her legs? A hiatus hernia? Pain that reaches, on most days, a level eight? And now, a little entity living like an alien in her lower jaw?
A spa day is out of the question. She hates people touching her.
So is a trip to Little Italy unless they serve an outstanding veal broth.
And I'd already given her the best birthday present of all -- a vape that would allow her to smoke some pretty excellent pot. Before the doctor's appointment, we had spent a week at the cottage, and while I don't smoke, I did enjoy watching her get baked without benefit of sunlight. And it helps with the pain, truly it does.
But now, the choices for the bucket list are narrowing, as her quality of life is deteriorating faster than an organic avocado.
So we had to sit there, and think for a bit.
Suddenly, she perked up.
"I'd like to see Ron James!"
"The liquor barn guy?"
"Yeah, I love Ron James."
Those of you who are from away may never have heard of Ron James. But if you are Canadian, and don't get premium cable, you've had Ron in your living room at least twice a year, on an annual basis.
He's our version of Billy Connolly with a slightly thicker accent.
He truly is a national treasure.

So I set off in search of Ron James tickets. Couldn't find any.
He didn't appear to be playing Ottawa any time soon. And damn it, we missed him last February.
I thought of calling him, to ask him to fly in and give Jennette a comic's version of a one-night stand.
But I soon realized that he didn't take Canadian Tire money, so I gave up.
Instead, I tried to convince Jennette to see the Phantom of the Opera, but it was a no go. And K.D. Lang tickets at the NAC were a whopping $800 a piece, what tickets that were left.
"I'm not paying 800 buckets for anybody," said the notoriously cheap Jennette who like most seniors, pays for her lottery tickets out of a change purse and buys toilet paper on old people days.
And so I left it.

A few days later, I picked up the Ottawa Citizen, and there he was, staring me straight in the gob, the little feller from Cape Breton. His mug was right on the front page.
Ron James was playing the 55 Plus Lifestyle Show!
And we could see him for FREE, if I downloaded a coupon.
It was as if God said, ok, I know this cancer thing is crap so here's a toonie!

And so that is how Jennette got to meet Ron James.
At the EY Centre, free tickets, eight bucks for bloody parking.

I didn't know where the place was. I got lost and nearly ended up at the airport before asking for directions at a Halal meat place. Finally, we arrived, and we were greeted by every senior citizen from Hawksbury to Pembroke. The place was packed. We were told we might not get a seat.
Ah, but I am crafty.
I shoved Jennette head of me, with her walker, and gave stern looks to all the still-ambulatory elders in the front row. A couple gave up their seats.
(I have used this technique, the sympathy trick, to get great seats before, like the time I took my wee daughter to the Lilith Fair in a wheelchair. By the time Spooky Sarah took to the stage, I had convinced the bouncers to lift Marissa over everybody's head and place her in front of the stage. Or the time my panic disorder was acting up, and so the nice people at the Canadian Tire Centre moved us from the nose bleeds to the front row at an Eric Clapton concert.)
Ah, it takes me back.

Anyway, we weaseled our way into the front row, stage right, and got ready for a treat.
It was as if we'd arrived at Tim Horton's on Camp Day.
Ron took the stage, and left us laughing til we were crying.
It helped that I'd made sure to make Jennette part of the act.
When he made a joke about oldsters partaking in "big fat ones," I pointed to Jennette.
With all that white hair, and the walker, Jennette didn't exactly look like she'd invented Reefer Madness.
Didn't matter.
Ron had his mark for the performance.
Every substance abuse joke was made at her expense.
"Hope yer not drivin' darling!"

And the icing on the cake was our meet and greet with Ron.

"Is this your daughter?" he asked pointing to me. Flattery will get you everywhere, Ron!
"Hair dye," I assured Jennette later.
"No," I told him. "You're on her bucket list. And I am her Make a Wish fairy."
Ron was visibly moved, and got up off his chair to mug for the camera. Soon free DVDs were flying her way.
"I love taking a picture with somebody who's not taller than me," he twinkled.
He really made her feel special.
I wanted to cry.
I realized that the cancer verdict hadn't given her a death sentence.
It gave her a reason to live again.
I realized our adventure was about to begin.

If you have any ideas for Jennette's bucket list, I'd love to hear them. We have things to do, places to go, but realize, we only have Canadian Tire money!


  1. I couldn't love this more. Good on you. Good on Ron. And well done, Jennette <3


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