Jim Ducharme, my courageous friend, recently joined me on my weekly podcast.
Jim has been diagnosed with a brain tumour. He isn’t sure how much time he has left, so he asked me to help him share his message about life, hope, purpose and love.
We always said we would do a podcast together. I’m so sad that this is it. As a lot of us face the great ‘unknown’ with Covid, Jim KNOWS what his fate it. The interview is part of his message.
Jim is also an accomplished writer. I share one of his stories below.
Please send love, good vibes and prayers Jim’s way.
Judy: Hi there, I’m Judy Croon. Welcome to another episode of Laugh Long and Prosper.
This is going to be a different episode.
Some difficult situations (for example, Covid, our recent city shutdown, unemployment, etc.) really test our strengths and our touchstones, like humour and gratitude. I think this show will explain itself.
My guest today is my good friend, Jim Ducharme. Jim and I go way back -back to radio days on the Mix when I was co-hosting the morning show and Jim was the mastermind producer behind the scenes. Jim seemed like a grouchy individual but he actually has a great sense of humour.
Jim has that self-deprecating humour that I love so much in other people, especially when times are stressful. Especially when times are low.
If you were going to make a joke about Jim, Jim would make it about himself first.
When I was at the Mix, Jim not only helped me build my website but he showed me how to run it myself probably so I wouldn’t bother him every two minutes. However, he knew how important it was to learn how to handle your own social media and he wanted to share that knowledge with me. I will forever be grateful to Jim for that.
While at the station, I created a fundraiser called Laughlines for breast cancer research.
Jim was the first person to volunteer. He said he would handle the social media for the event.
Over six years and with the help of many individuals, including Jim, we raised over $650,000 for breast cancer research.
Throughout the years, Jim’s knowledge and friendship have been invaluable.
Jim: Please don’t give me too much credit. Learning is great but teaching is better. Certainly, the situation that I’m in could be a lot better but do you want me to talk about this now?
Judy: Absolutely. It’s your show my friend. We always wanted to do a podcast together. I’m only sorry that this is the reason that we are doing it today. For people out there who are saying, “I can’t handle Covid. I can’t handle not being able to pay my bills! “I say, please listen to Jim’s story. This will give you strength. This will give you perspective.
Jim: Well, I will keep it short then. I hope that everyone had a great Christmas. My biggest concern is that you remember it because I don’t. I remember very little of it. Thanks to my ex-wife, the police came by the house and realized that there was a problem and took me to the hospital. I spent nearly a month in there over Christmas- missing Christmas day with my daughter. I have a brain tumour.
It is probably the worst kind of cancer that is out there and it decided to make a home in my head. I wouldn’t have minded if it had decided to take a basement room but it didn’t. It decided to move into the penthouse and that’s the worse damn place that it can go.
Time is irrelevant. When you’re sick like I am right now, time is extremely irrelevant and so is your ground. The worst part of this disease up until now, aside from the hammering that goes on in my head, is that I feel like I’m walking on very mushy sand. It’s unbalanced on either side of me.
Yesterday, I took a tumble down the stairs. There are literally claw marks in the paint from where I grabbed the ledge, so I was obviously under the impression at the time that it was a bad, bad thing.
This morning, I needed to walk my daughter back to her mother’s house and I had my walker. I could only get her so far so I stood on the top of the street and made sure that she got into her mother’s house okay. But it was another moment where I wanted to punch something.
It’s funny- maybe because someone said to me yesterday, “You made this investment Jim, (without knowing it) by being a decent human being. Now it’s coming back to pay off and it’s wonderful. “(I think what Jim’s friend meant here was that because Jim is a good guy- many people are rallying to help him.)
My father did a lot of good for the community. There were hundreds and hundreds of people at his funeral but he didn’t see them.
I don’t plan on having any big kind of funeral or anything. My friend and I have discussed what my final wishes are and she’s prepared to take care of them.
I don’t want to freak anybody else out but my actual plan is to have my ashes scattered in small bits in sugar containers in restaurants so that I can always be with you.
Jim: Look, I’ve had my moments. I knew that there were going to be hard moments.
Yesterday was a hard day but having said that, I’m almost sixty years-old. Am I going to complain about ten to twenty years? Do I want to sit here and feel sorry for myself?
Am I going to feel worse for myself than a friend who has known me for 30-40 years, who’s literally losing it because what is happening to me? How can I feel worse about it? They will have time when they have to deal with it. Me? I’m going to have a few bad weeks and then everything is going to go mushy dark.
Then I have that wonderful option if I want to haunt the crap out of people who have been jerks to me and I’m perfectly capable if I have to.
The most important thing in this situation is the conversation that we are having right here. Your friends are everything. My uncle was not a very nice man. He was a very stingy man and he was a rich man and he didn’t have a very good end because of that.
Judy: First of all, we don’t have a crystal ball. I know that we wish for a miracle. Do you know approximately how much time you have and what do you want to do with that time?
Jim: I have an idea what my time is. When doctors give you averages about stuff like that -they give you statistics. But it’s not about the time. Time is a bag and it matters what you stuff into it.
Sure, I could have but if I had spent my entire life saying I’ll never get cancer, I’ll never get cancer and certainly not in the brain, that wouldn’t have protected me from this.
We were in a darkened hospital room and the nurse looked me in the eye and said, “You didn’t do this. You didn’t put this there. Nothing you did, did this.”
By the way, God bless nurses and nurse practitioners. If you don’t think that they are saving our asses every damn day and putting their own at risk, then you are completely out of it.
They don’t have enough doctors to be in there to talk to you about this stuff.
It was the nurses that stepped up when they could for the most part.
If you would like to listen to the rest of Jim’s interview, again you can click on the following Jim’s interview
During the interview, I shared one of Jim’s stories. I think it’s beautiful.
A great blue heron swoops in a slow arc just above the water and then silently lands on the dock in front of me. The bird pays little attention and goes straight to work fishing. Just hours earlier, as I floated with my daughter on the lake, a family of ducks swam right by us with nary a worry. For years I’ve been coming to my best friend’s cottage in Quebec with the hope of renewal, and this is the first year I’ve come here happy and allowed myself to relax — it’s beautiful. Most writers dream of a secluded lakefront cottage to create their masterpiece, and most of us end up writing it in a Starbucks. Yes, I know I’m lucky.
In this setting, just an hour north of Ottawa, my daily waypoints consist of swims in clean lake water, relaxing conversation, and a lot of summer fun with my ten-year-old daughter. Bird calls instead of traffic sounds and a sky full of stars instead of street lights. When you consider the kind of monotony most of us deal with day in day out, you can understand why people go to the trouble and expense to purchase and maintain a cottage. I’m blessed to have a friend who welcomes myself and my daughter here one week each summer.
A beautiful relaxed existence, the kind of therapeutic oasis that should be able to set anyone back on the tracks, and yet, this is the first time I’ve really and truly relaxed and enjoyed myself here in years. The very first day here, my ten-year-old child’s joyful laughter echoed around the gentle hills as we floated and played in the lake. She had a raft, and at one point, she suggested we recreate the iconic final scene from the movie Titanic.
“Oh, how do we do that?” I asked.
“You lift me on the raft, and then you sink to the bottom of the lake,” she replied.
I only managed to sink halfway, but it was a pretty epic romantic scene — a moment I couldn’t have shared with her just a year ago. I couldn’t have had that special moment, that perfect moment, because I felt like a cat tossed into a black sack – panicking, alone, terrified of what might happen next.
As I sit here by a glacial surrounded by pine covered granite hills, it’s a little like reaching an emotional higher ground, where you have a better perspective on your journey and the experiences, good and bad that have been a part of that journey.
I know depression, and I know trauma. Both have been a part of my adventure and at times, my only companions on long nights.
When the 13-year marriage to the only love of my life ended, my world crumbled. The ensuing custody battle over my young daughter almost destroyed me and sent me into three years of dark, desperate depression and anxiety. The only reason I found for going on was my ten-year-old warrior princess — she never lost faith in her daddy — even when he had.
Jim doesn’t have a lot of wishes right now. He is obviously concerned the most about his daughter. One of his internet friends was kind enough to set up a GoFundMe page. As stated on the page, ‘Unfortunately, Jim’s expenses are piling up and worrying about bills at a time like this is something nobody should have to go through. So for that reason, we’re putting together this GoFundMe to help ease the burden and give Jim as much quality time with his family and friends as possible.’
Aside from Jim’s daughter, he is very concerned about getting a message out to the nurses at Princess Margaret Hospital and Toronto Western Hospital. I know he has purchased coffee and donuts for them multiple times but he is at a loss how to thank each and every one of them for what they have done. Understandably, Jim’s brain isn’t as sharp as it used to be so he doesn’t remember names. He’s sad that he can’t thank them enough. Aside from his daughter, they are his warrior princesses and princes right now. If you see a nurse or frontline worker, please thank them on Jim’s behalf.
Thank you, Jim, for reminding us what is truly important in life; friends, family, love and laughter and NOW.
Laugh Long and Prosper my dear friend.
I don’t know what was scarier in 2020…Donald Trump or Covid.
Certainly, both of them have had me cowering in my house for a few months at the beginning of the year.
But then I felt inspired by Joe Biden: the little engine that could.
Slowly but surely, his campaign started to gain traction throughout the year and lo and behold, he and Kamala Harris won the US Election.
I felt inspired by Joe Biden for many reasons. His old-school talk about having ‘steel in your spine’ made me want to strike a Rosie the Riveter pose and start saving kittens out of trees.
I was also inspired by ‘The Joe Biden Jog’. You know the jog -the five or six little steps that Joe does just as he’s about to take the podium. I now do the ‘Joe Biden Jog’ myself whenever I’m on one of my slow daily walks and I think someone might be looking.
As 2020 progressed, I started to get mad at 2020. To hell with you, 2020.
As Covid raged on, I metamorphized from coward to full- blown ‘Snakes on a Plane’ Samuel Jackson. “That mother ##%$^^&ing 2020 is not going to get the best of me.”
I joined millions of humans around the world as we adapted to the ‘new normal’ by masking up, Zooming, home schooling, isolating, sanitizing and maintaining a responsible six-foot distance from others. That’s right, Winston Churchill would have been proud of us! Okay, maybe we weren’t fighting in the streets with sticks and brooms but, when it comes to watching TV, no other generation can hold a candle to us. Fourteen hours of binge-watching The Crown? Child’s play. Not even a blink or a bathroom break. Hulu- come at me.
I don’t know about you, but I can watch the most obscure, fragmented channel for days. Have you seen ‘Estonia’s Next Baking Star’ on the Umlaut Network? For a monthly subscription of only $6.99, I can assure you that it’s a bargain at twice the price.
Of course, Christmas 2020 was different because of Covid. It was smaller and quieter. I notice that most of my Christmas gifts were chocolates, pajamas and books. Otherwise known as ‘Covid Gear’ or the 92-year-old Grandmother Starter Kit. Either way, I don’t mind! Bring on the comfort and cosiness.
I stayed with my dad this Christmas. We had a great time catching up. One minor observation- could the TV be any louder?
I’m sure even the neighbours know that the mystery on Oak Island is that there isn’t any treasure.
All joking aside, I will take the good lessons from 2020 and keep moving forward.
Family, friends, charity, gratitude and ‘Murder She Wrote’ are just some of the touchstones that have helped me to, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’- as Winston Churchill would say.
Hang in there folks, it’s going to get better. We just have to be patient.
Laugh Long and Prosper.
By the way, in case you missed the most recent episodes of my podcast ‘Laugh Long and Prosper’ -you can check them out here.
Laugh Long and Prosper: Psychic Friday – Friday January 1, 2021- Predictions for the year 2021 with Psychic Nikki
Laugh Long and Prosper -Monday Dec 21 2020 Just Another Mindful Monday with Meditation Coach Cara Coulson Part Two
Laugh Long and Prosper – Monday Dec 7 2020 – Just Another Mindful Monday with Meditation Coach Cara Coulson Part One
- Let’s face it. It’s been a challenging year.
Covid has forced us to mask up, distance and sanitize our hands until they are raw.
We’ve had to isolate, bubble and some of us have had to learn so much new technology, we could probably talk Apollo 13 down.
We’ve faced more ZOOM meetings that we care to think about.
Thank goodness for the front line and essential workers who have done everything to keep the rest of us safe. Without them, we would be lost -or worse.
Compared to other global catastrophes – war, earthquakes, tsunamis- Covid asked the majority of us to do one thing: stay home. Watching Netflix is not a hardship. It has brought us gems like the latest season of the Crown, and of course, the Queen’s Gambit. If you haven’t seen The Queen’s Gambit, may I say it has renewed my passion for tranquillizers. I mean chess. I’m not good at chess. I have to take a nap after four moves, but this mini-series has inspired me to become a better player as well as, step up my wardrobe game!
Netflix was one of the ways that I got through Covid.
I also read a tremendous amount. Three books changed my perspective about the future (and it does look good). You might have read about them in my past blogs- Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress by Steven Pinker and Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling.
Purpose also got me through Covid. A few years ago, I joined an amazing local organization here in Toronto called City Street Outreach. Spearheaded by husband and wife, Alex and Grace, City Street Outreach makes it their mission to feed and clothe Toronto’s homeless and most needy. Covid gave me more time to help them. I’m also grateful to family, friends, friends of friends and strangers who chipped in food, clothing, dry goods, time and tax-deductible donations to this worthy cause.
Finally, laughter got me through Covid and the US elections.
I shared virtual laughter with friends, family, clients and strangers. Experts say that humour and fear are closely linked in our brain. Many times, when we face the unknown, we laugh. Humour is not only a release but it’s also a way of making sense and making fun of the unknown. Covid still remains a huge unknown.
I have been blessed to have some very funny people around me. They make me laugh at times when the only other option is to pour a glass of red wine and cry endlessly into my Viggo Mortensen satin pillow.
I have been blessed to turn ‘the funny’ into a career and get a chance to share it with others; whether it be through stand-up comedy or motivational speaking. Now, I would like to share the gift of humour this holiday season. If you or someone you know needs to share their humour, feel free to check out my virtual comedy course entitled Stand Up In Ten Steps.
I leave no comic behind. Everyone is funny, even the seemingly most boring people because they usually have a dark side! Whether you are a comedian, a speaker, or someone who just wants to take a fun course, join me. While sharing a laugh, you’ll also get to help someone in need- 25% of proceeds will be donated to City Street Outreach.
Happy Holidays. Stay Safe.
I know…not exactly the most hilarious, side-splitting way to open a conversation or a comedy show, for that matter. Ah, remember the good old days when we used to do comedy shows???
Relax, Chicken Little. I bring some good news, even as I write this after a see-saw US election that still hasn’t been completely resolved. This good news comes in the form of two amazing books that coaxed me out from underneath my comforter and back into the real world.
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress by Canadian psychologist Steven Pinker, and Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Swedish physician and statistician Hans Rosling. Both books are really uplifting and perfect for the challenging times that we are going through.
Maybe it’s all fake news?
I don’t think so. These books are based upon facts. Remember when we used to care about facts? Also, each book comes with a heavy hitter list of endorsements including two people you might have heard of.
‘A hopeful book about the potential for human progress when we work off facts rather than our inherent biases.’
‘My new favorite book of all time.’
I’m no Barack Obama or Bill Gates, but my Goldendoodle Barnie thinks I’m pretty swell.
I give 10/10 to both books, too!
Okay, great, so Barnie loves you. What are some takeaways from Factfulness?
Facts! Lots of good facts!
-In the past 20 years, extreme poverty has been cut in half.
-60 percent of girls in low-income countries finish public school.
-80 percent of 1 year-olds in the world have been vaccinated against certain types of disease.
What are some takeaways from Enlightenment Now?
Again, lots of solid facts. For example, we are fighting world famine.
In 1973, just forty-seven years ago, one-third of the world was malnourished.
Today, because of advances in science and agriculture, that percentage is down to 13 percent and scientists are working to bring that statistic down even further.
Did you know that just 150 years ago, people starved to death in Sweden because winter was so long? In 1820, 90 percent of the world lived in extreme poverty, but trade encouraged countries to put differences aside.
Globally, there is more wealth and less inequality.
Globalization and technology are helping more countries get wealthier.
The wealthier a country is, the more likely it is to spend on social programs.
The wealthier a country is, the more unlikely it is to be influenced by militant groups.
What about climate change?
Both books state that developments in science and technology are pushing us to get our carbon dioxide emissions cut in half by 2050 and eliminated by 2100.
What about the current political climate – especially, you know where?
Political ‘glitches’ happen every now and then throughout history but hopefully, a growing number of young, educated, more tolerant voters will help make the world a better place in the future. It may not be happening fast enough for most of us who couldn’t peel ourselves away from the TV set on November 3rd, but the demographics are changing.
What about Covid?
Oh yeah, that. Well, researchers are working around the globe and the clock.
As a planet, we have faced many challenges in the past, including war, disease, natural disasters, and political upheavals, just to name a few. But as the facts have shown us over and over again (see my last blog Humankind by Rutger Bregman) the worst actually brings out the best in most humans. It’s better to bet with clan than against it. Sometimes, when things get really, really dark, we laugh with the clan. It helps to stop us from freezing in fear and it keeps us moving forward. We laugh, we learn, we overcome, we do better.
Until we discover a vaccine for Covid, continue practicing the three W’s:
-Wash your hands
-Watch your distance
-Shop at Walmart
-Wear a mask
And don’t forget to laugh. I had the pleasure of working with Monty Python’ John Cleese a few years back. The man is brilliant and obviously hysterical. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from him:
‘Laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy.’
Until next month,
Humankind by Rutger Bregman: Part Two
A few more examples to show you just how awesome humans really are.
Covid, the economy, the un-presidential debate, Tiger King’s Carole Baskin competing on Dancing With The Stars – there is certainly a lot of frightening news lately. Are things just getting worse?? Last month, I reviewed the book Humankind by Rutger Bregman. It gave me hope. Bregman provided examples throughout history that proved the awesomeness of humans in times of distress. If you’ve got six and a half months of Zoom, mask, and sanitizer burn-out, perhaps a few more of the author’s stories will help lift your spirits.
During grade school, you were probably asked to read William Golding’s Lord of The Flies. It is the story about a group of boys stranded on an island. Over a period of time, they end up turning on each other and supposedly displaying the worst of mankind.
Bregman actually found a real-life Lord of the Flies example in 1966. Six schoolboys from the island of Tonga stole a boat and became shipwrecked on a remote Pacific island for 15 months. Unlike, Lord of The Flies, they did not turn on each other. Instead, they built fires, shared food and they made a pact not to argue. After the rescue, they remained friends for years.
Bregman cites another example of camaraderie over conquest from the first world war, when English and German soldiers defied orders and stopped fighting on Christmas Day. From the trenches, the two sides drank, sang Christmas Carols and exchanged gifts instead of gunfire. Even after they were forced to resume battle, the rival soldiers sent each other secret messages regarding attacks and/or they fired above the enemy lines so as not to cause death or injury.
Contrary to what action movies seem to depict, taking a human life is not easy or natural. Bregman provides a statistic from the Battle of Waterloo. Less than one percent of the injuries inflicted during that battle were injuries from bayonets. This is phenomenal considering that bayonets were attached to tens of thousands of rifles. Bregman says that, even in the face of life-or-death situations, humans avoid violence whenever possible.
Yes, there has been and will continue to be dark glitches in history, but statistics show that it is not the norm to react like barbarians. Humans have stepped up and risked their lives to prove over and over again that no, it is not survival of the fittest. In many cases and as Bregman states, it is survival of the friendliest. It is part of our caveman brain and instinct to want to be part of the clan, not against it.
So, take a deep breath, take the bone out of your hair and smile. If history provides any indication, we are still pretty darn amazing as a race. The majority of us will summon our better sides to get through these challenging pages of the calendar.
Until next time,