Tony Proudfoot - CFL Montreal Alouette great: My Time Has Come
My time has come: Tony Proudfoot
Tony Proudfoot's Farewell: " I've been blessed with so much love and support,
it is truly overwhelming. The concern and compassion everyone has afforded me is amazing, unfathomable."
BY TONY PROUDFOOT, SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTEDECEMBER 16, 2010 12:03 PM
"The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things." -Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
The last time I wrote for The Gazette, in April 2010, I was anticipating that I might not make it to another Christmas.
Here it is, early December, same year, and my circumstances are certainly clearer.
As the Walrus says, "The time has come" literally and figuratively, and I would like to "talk of many things."
Why has ALS come into my life? What can I do with my body as it slowly deteriorates?
When will my time actually be, given that ALS is a definitive death sentence?
These are all thoughts that come to mind.
Focusing on my next breath requires all of my energy.
I am starved of air and oxygen and need to rely on a ventilator just to feel stable,
just to live. I am now on my ventilator up to 22 hours per day, often going off one,
to walk slowly to another room to attach myself to another.
At the beginning, without any answers and none forthcoming,
I chose to take the high road and be as positive as I could possibly be and live the life I had left to the fullest.
I also worked hard to raise awareness of ALS and support research into its cause and elimination.
To date, more than half a million dollars has been raised for the ALS Tony Proudfoot Fund
that may some day help the thousands of people in Canada who are dying.
Unfortunately, there are no concrete results that can help me yet.
Research efforts have moved forward significantly. I am very proud of that.
So, in the twilight of my life, I've been asked to reflect on my plight.
First, let me say how great the Alouettes were this year,
Grey Cup champs once again and a huge part of my "up" days and enjoyment.
They are a hard habit to kick, and my 40-year association with them in a variety of capacities,
from player to coach, game analyst, broadcaster and now chief cheerleader
(I wore my good luck Als tuque from the '74 Cup, during this year's game) has been a fantastic run.
I want to thank the Alouettes for everything they've done.
You have no idea how much of a booster they have been to me.
What can you say about people like Marc Trestman and Ben Cahoon,
who came to visit me independently, just days after winning the Big One,
to share their excitement and thoughts on the game and the whole experience?
Ben even gave me his Grey Cup Champion hat!
My broadcast partner Rick Moffat stopped by with a Grey Cup football, excellent!
They all knew I so wanted to be there with them, and to partake in their joy.
Those who visited let me do it through osmosis.
How about the support of special people like Anthony Calvillo and Davis Sanchez and literally dozens of others,
way too numerous to name, but not to forget?
I know this will be my last December update.
Right now, I'm hanging on for Christmas, and it's a tough slog and not a guarantee.
Let's recap the last few years of articles:
In May of 2007, my wife Vicki and I received the devastating,
terrifying news that I have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS),
a terminal illness that typically runs its course in three to five years.
That was not quite four years ago, and I now know I will not reach that five-year plateau.
I put together my personal bucket list, not in selfish terms of travelling or seeing wonders of the world, but more personal. Four goals:
No. 1: Support my wife and family and relish in their love and support.
No. 2: Make the relationships I have better, by being responsive to every friend, acquaintance and individual and each issue.
No. 3: Make a difference in ALS awareness and improve fundraising efforts.
No. 4: A very personal, positive mantra: Suck it up and get on with life (remember, no whining allowed!) and enjoy every day.
What other option do any of us really have?
I can proudly say I've accomplished, and perhaps even overachieved, in each of these projects.
In December 2008, I penned an article for The Gazette entitled One Year Later (give or take a few months).
I was dealing with the early reality of this cruel and insidious disease.
My voice was deteriorating, my ability to eat and swallow was already beginning to cause a few issues
and the hint of breathing problems was starting to manifest.
Initially, it didn't seem too much of a worry, as these matters were not affecting my ability to participate in the activities I have always loved.
December 2009 brought The Black Night of the Holy Grail.
You'll recall in the movie that Arthur, "King of the Britons," commands the Black Knight to step aside,
and when he refuses he cuts off his right arm.
When the Knight says the blow is but a scratch and that he's had worse,
King Arthur cuts his left arm off.
The Knight ignores it, not giving up, and asks the King if he's had enough.
Eventually, with his legs also gone, the Black Knight says:
"All right, we'll call it a draw!"
I have been fighting like that.
ALS continued to ravage me, and my body did not quite function as it had.
My ability to talk was gone; I had a plastic tube feeding me and a tracheotomy,
My mouth, nose and throat all abandoned me, except for drooling and, thank goodness, smiling!
April 2010 chronicled a metaphor from Samuel Beckett and his Waiting for Godot, i.e. Waiting for Death.
I spent weeks in hospital at various stages with severe infections and an exhausting battle with pneumonia.
My golfing was over and much of my mobility was now curtailed.
At the time, I wrote: "Believe me, I wish no one should have to go through any day of those four months, ever, ever, ever.
I'm a strapping, tough, strong-minded, independent man. I can endure a ton, and it nevertheless beat the hell out of me.
As much as I went through, I cannot fathom what my wife, Vicki, and my kids, Michael, Lindsay and Lauren, went through.
They are champions."
Let's jump forward to the present day, December 2010.
Well, I am still here, hanging by my finger nails while my toes are touching rock bottom and I can feel them getting a foothold.
I am proud I have continued championing my goals.
My family has been absolutely amazing and friends have been terrifically uplifting.
ALS research support continues (please donate) and I have been toughing it out.
My Alouettes kept me buoyed with their outstanding accomplishments.
I write and speak about this disease and my adventure in positive,
forward-looking phrases and people see it as courageous and even heroic.
But living the reality has been awful and downright frightening for me and my family.
I have chosen to write about it as a method of informing and educating as many people as I can.
I want to thank Gazette sports editor Stu Cowan for his encouragement and especially for giving me this forum.
Greater awareness and financial contributions for ALS research may someday be enough that
the thousands who become afflicted with this malicious, sinister fate might have some hope.
I would also like my attitude and approach to be an aid and beacon to everyone
that you should live your life as fully as you can, every day.
That, my friends, is the only hope for the thousands of Canadians struck with ALS and thousands more who will contract it.
To make a contribution right now, please go to www.sla-quebec.ca,
then go to the link for the Tony Proudfoot Fund. Thank you so much.
There may be one more missive from me, posthumously, through the proverbial ghostwriter so that you know my struggle has ended.
I've been blessed with so much love and support it is truly overwhelming.
The concern and compassion everyone has afforded me is amazing, unfathomable.
Goodbyes are never easy, in my case they have been the hardest.
But I'm working my way through them with the deepest, heartfelt thanks I can muster.
Do not worry about me; my incredible network will bolster and steel me for the very imminent inevitable.
I so appreciate everyone's support.