In October 2016, in the wake of the now late Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie's brain cancer diagnosis, André Beaulieu organized a local fundraising concert in his honour, with proceeds going to the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research.
Ironically, Beaulieu, lead guitarist with the Sudbury hard rock band Blackwood Sinners — you might remember the band from when it reached the top 25 in the CBC Searchlight Competition in 2016 — has now been diagnosed with cancer himself.
On Dec. 4, Beaulieu was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and he started treatments at the Northeast Cancer Centre Jan. 7.
Now the Sudbury music community has now organized a fundraising event to help the family while Beaulieu undergoes treatment.
“The irony of him now being in this position — I think it's really important that we step up and help our own,” said family friend Shawna Morin, who's helping to organize the event.
She said she's hoping to bring in enough to at least cover the family's mortgage for a few months or help with the costs associated with Beaulieu's treatments.
The fundraiser, called “Team Andre,” is being held over two nights — Jan. 18 and 19 — at the Durham Hall at 82 Durham St.
Two nights were required because 18 local bands have stepped up to perform. Check out the full lineup on the Facebook event page.
Beaulieu said he's too overwhelmed right now to speak to the media, but a post he made on Facebook last month gives a hint at his thoughts.
“Well I guess the cat's out of the bag, so I will make a public post,” he said. “I was diagnosed with CANCER!..yup, it sucks..but those are the cards I've been dealt. But anybody who really knows me knows I love a good fight! Thank you to all for the calls, messages and company. It means the world to me!”
His wife, Allison, said her 38-year-old husband, who's on leave from his job as a machinist at BBT Machining due to his illness, started losing weight rapidly last summer, and complained of severe abdominal symptoms.
He was diagnosed with colorectal cancer after a colonoscopy and subsequent pathology tests.
While it's a large tumour, it fortunately has not spread to his internal organs, so his oncologists have an aggressive treatment plan in place with the goal of a cure.
But that means months of on and off chemotherapy and radiation, as well as two surgeries, including being fitted with an ostomy bag next week, and a later surgery to remove the tumour.
Allison said the fundraiser is “pretty amazing,” and very welcome, given that Beaulieu is on leave from his job, as well as the fact that she just found out that her work drug benefit plan won't cover his chemo pills.
She said they're now applying for assistance under the Trillium Drug Program, but deductibles can be high.
“Friends of ours had kind of come together and had kind of put it together and presented us with it," Allison said. "They were like 'Is it something we could do for you?' We definitely need the help.”
It's been a tough time for the family, as Allison's stepfather was also diagnosed with stomach cancer this fall.
“We were kind of double whammied,” she said, adding that family members as well as Beaulieu's workplace and her own have been extremely supportive.
Allison said the family is going to try to attend the fundraiser, but if Beaulieu can't go, she and their seven-year-old daughter, Morgan, will definitely show up.
In case you're wondering what's going to become of the Blackwood Sinners in the wake of Beaulieu's illness, the band has already been on hiatus for about a year due to its members' busy personal lives.
Tickets to the “Team Andre” fundraiser on Jan. 18 and 19 cost $25 per night, and are available through Event Brite.
If you can't make it out to the event, and would like to help the Beaulieu family, Morin suggests purchasing a ticket anyway, or donating to a GoFundMe campaign set up in Andre's honour.