Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Fight of His Life

I can usually gauge the level of community interest and investment in an issue based on the emails, messages and phone calls I receive on said issue. In the last week or so I have been virtually deluged by these types of messages, and they all begin in very similar ways:

“Bo Cooper is a friend…”
“Bo Cooper is a colleague…”
“Bo Cooper is someone I went to school with…”
“Bo Cooper is this really great guy I know…”

And then this introduction sharing their connection to Bo is followed by the fact that Bo Cooper, a 26-year old man born and raised in Fort McMurray, a member of our local fire department and a beloved member of our community, needs help.
Bo was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2011. In October of this year Bo learned his cancer, which had been in remission after two previous bouts, had returned.

That Bo Cooper is a fighter cannot be doubted – and I mean that quite literally, as Bo is a devotee of martial arts. In fact, Bo has competed as an MMA fighter, meaning Bo is no stranger to battle, including the two battles with cancer he has already faced and won. But now Bo is in his third fight with this horrendous disease, and the rules of the fight have changed.
Bo has received his lifetime limit of chemotherapy. Currently his best hope for treatment lies in the USA with promising, but experimental, medication. This is, quite literally, the fight of his life, but this time Bo needs all of us in his corner.

I think one of the common misperceptions we have under our health care system is that all health care – whatever is required, whenever and wherever – will be funded by our government system of universal health care. Sadly, this is not true, and in Bo’s case his friends, family and colleagues are now facing the significant challenge of raising the funds to ensure Bo has access to the best possible ally he will have in this fight, medical treatment in the USA.

I will share with you in a moment how you can help Bo, but first I also must insert my own thoughts on this in light of our new NDP government in Alberta. As someone who was born and raised in Saskatchewan, the land of Tommy Douglas and the original home of the concept of universal health care in Canada, I must wonder where exactly our new NDP government is in all this. Bo Cooper’s family and friends should be spending this time caring for Bo and for each other, not desperately trying to raise funds to allow him to access the only treatment that may save his life, and yet here we are. Our new government has an opportunity to do the right thing here, and to follow in the footsteps of the great Tommy Douglas, the man to whom they owe their origins. For this government to deny Bo Cooper the financial assistance he requires for medical treatment goes against the very concept of universal health care, and I consider this one of the first tests of their commitment to their principles, the people of this province and most specifically the residents of this region, who risk losing one of our own should they refuse to fund his treatment. I ask the Government of Alberta to give serious consideration to this matter, because how they treat it will likely impact how this government's adherence to their own guiding principles is seen.
Now, how can you help Bo? I am going to ask you to do two things:

1.       Visit this Facebook page where you can see all the different fundraising efforts taking place. It can be as simple as a straight donation to his Go Fund Me account or participation in one of the many events taking place. And make sure you share the information, too, on your own Facebook and other social media.

2.       Email the Minister of Health for Alberta, Sarah Hoffman. This issue is not limited to Bo Cooper, and while this time it is his family and friends scrambling to raise funds for life-saving medical treatment next time it could be yours. Mention the history of the NDP, universal health care and Tommy Douglas, and ask if the NDP government of Alberta intends to “walk the talk” or if they plan to hide behind governmental bureaucracy while Albertans like Bo are forced to worry not only about their health but if their finances are strong enough to save their life. Maybe you are reluctant to make this a political issue – but let’s be clear: it is one, and we deserve some answers on it.

Unlike all those who emailed me, messaged me and called me I don’t know Bo. However, I know that anyone with a network of family, friends and colleagues that strong and large must be a special individual. I also know that Bo, as a firefighter, would risk his own life to save mine or yours. Firefighters are a unique group, the ones who run into buildings when everyone else is running out, the ones who place themselves in danger when everyone else is trying to escape it. For that alone I think we owe it to Bo to ensure he receives the best possible treatment he can get, and his best chance to win this fight. This is one fight, though, where he cannot be in the ring alone. He needs all of us there with him as he battles a foe more formidable than most of us will ever face. The only question I have is: will you stand beside Bo in the fight of his life?

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