René Galipeau is just a few days shy of his 75th birthday, an age, his doctors believed, he would never live to see. Galipeau was diagnosed with cancer — for the first time — 28 years ago, a late-stage lymphoma he beat with the help of a bone marrow transplant from his identical twin, Roland.
He has since been diagnosed with skin cancer, bladder cancer and prostate cancer, a triple dose of bad news, all received at different points in his life, that he has likewise survived. About 18 months ago, the Toronto mining executive met with cancer specialists, yet again. This time they said he was a true goner. He had a brain tumour. He was given eight months to live, at best.
Galipeau registered the grim prognosis and got on with his life. “I shouldn’t have been here past last summer,” he says, chuckling. “Nobody knows why I am still here, but here I am, and I am doing fine. It’s black humour, you know. Really, I have to laugh, because if you can’t laugh at it what else can you do?”
Galipeau’s sunny outlook is part of who he is. Even now, even after a pair of seizures landed him in hospital March 17, where doctors confirmed that, no, his tumour wasn’t growing, as he had feared, but that he had a potentially lethal new illness to contend with: COVID-19.
“I said to the doctor, who was dressed like a Martian in a protective suit, are you kidding me?” It was, alas, no joke. Neither was the news, received a day later, that Mary, his wife of 32 years, also had the virus, a double-whammy with a silver lining, since the pair were sent home together to, as Galipeau puts it, “ride things out.”