When Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea performed a free outdoor concert in downtown Vancouver last February not even a torrential downpour could keep Dan and Selina Robinson away. But when their favourite band’s frontman launched into ‘Ordinary Day,’ their wet faces had little to do with the rain.
“We looked at each other and we were both bawling,” says Dan. After going off a chemotherapy drug, which had kept her cancer free for 15 years, Selina had learned just days prior that it was back in the form of a 4 cm tumour.
The song, and its lyrics — “Way-hey-hey, it’s just an ordinary day, and it’s all your state of mind. At the end of the day, you’ve just got to say it’s all right,” — had become an anthem of optimism after Selina’s 2006 diagnosis. It also inspired the name of their Tour de Cure team, Way Hey Hey!, who have become a family over their 12 years riding together, raising $800,000 for the BC Cancer Foundation.
Despite the tears, hearing their beloved Canadian folk song live again, so soon after the “kick in the gut” of Selina’s cancer recurrence, was exactly what they needed, says Dan.
“It was a recharge. The song is still there. Hope is still there. As for Selina, she’s not going anywhere,” affirms Dan of her public announcement that she would continue her work as the minister of post-secondary education.
One thing that has changed, however, are Selina’s treatment options for her rare gastrointestinal stromal cancer. “It was a very different story than the first time around,” says Dan. “Back then it was, ‘Well, there’s this new treatment. We don’t know if it will work. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. And if it does, we don’t know how long it will work for.”
Less than 20 years after her initial diagnosis, Selina’s oncologist at BC Cancer told the Robinsons that she was confident resuming the same treatment would work, and if it didn’t there were four other viable options waiting in line behind it.
Team Way Hey Hey! are more than a team, they're a family who ride for members who have survived as well as for those they have lost.
“It really does renew our drive to keep going. We’ve got to keep pushing for the funds to keep that research progressing. And that’s why we ride,” says Dan. So that everyone facing cancer has treatment options, and is as fortunate as Selina — her first scan since going back on imatinib, a targeted chemotherapy delivered via a daily pill, showed her tumour has shrunk by almost 40%.
While Selina is again experiencing the same side effects that prompted her to try stopping treatment (fatigue and locked muscles that forced her to give up a love of running marathons) she and Dan are looking forward participating in their 13th Tour de Cure in August. And are even more excited about the return to a two-day overnight camping event.
“You do your 100 km, and you think, ‘Okay, I’m done.’ But then the music starts, and everybody dances until it stops,” says Dan. With any luck, ‘Ordinary Day’ will play. But even if it doesn’t, Dan, Selina and Way Hey Hey! will wake up the next morning and keep riding for them anyway.
The Tour de Cure, presented by Wheaton Precious Metals, is B.C.’s largest cycling fundraiser powering leading cancer care innovation across the province through the BC Cancer Foundation. Sign up to ride or volunteer this Aug. 26-27, or donate to fuel a participant or team at tourdecure.ca