Leukemia has only renewed NDP leader Todd Hardy’s passion for Yukon politics and the upcoming territorial election, he said, as he recovered from chemotherapy in his Vancouver hospital bed Tuesday.
“I haven’t lost my hair, that’s still there,” said Hardy, 49, sounding in high spirits and making jokes as he spoke to reporters over the telephone.
“Today I feel great: they gave me a day pass, and I was able to get out and walk down to the ocean — and I feel pretty optimistic that I’ll have this beat. My heart and soul is up there and I’m dying to come back.”
Leukemia has confirmed Hardy’s dedication to Yukon politics, he said, and both he and his party feel his illness will not hurt the NDP’s fortunes in the upcoming election.
But Hardy conceded he wouldn’t mind if Premier Dennis Fentie put off the election call so he can regain his strength.
Hardy awoke last Tuesday feeling ill but unaware he had leukemia.
Diagnosed in Whitehorse that evening, Hardy was then medevaced to St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday.
Doctors immediately put him on “soft” chemotherapy pills.
A full barrage of intravenous chemotherapy started on Friday, and Hardy has received several blood transfusions to raise his blood counts.
“They’ve gone at me pretty heavy,” he said, after the first of three rounds of the chemical treatment.
“Fortunately I’ve responded pretty well.”
Following a bone marrow biopsy, doctors have preliminarily diagnosed Hardy with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
But doctors won’t know the exact type of leukemia he is suffering from until his treatment has run its course in about two weeks, he said.
Leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells that sees malignant cells overproduced in the bone marrow.
The sub-group of leukemia Hardy is suffering from is well known and often afflicts children.
“I’ve been told it’s highly treatable, depending on circumstances,” said Hardy, who was isolated to prevent infections due to his weakened immune system.
“The doctors came in this morning and said I have responded tremendously well to the treatment, so that’s always nice to hear,” he said.
“They’re not after remission, because they’re already getting remission with me. They’re after a cure with me.”
After diagnosis Hardy can resume chemotherapy in Whitehorse.
But if his illness is found to be more acute, he may have to undergo a bone marrow transplant.
All of his four siblings have volunteered to donate bone marrow if needed, said Hardy.
Though leukemia has removed Hardy from the territory, it seems it has not removed the territory from Hardy.
“We’re still getting prepared, as every party is, for the upcoming election,” he said, almost defiantly.
“Whether I’m sitting in this hospital room or sitting in my office, I’m still a phone call away.
“The platform work is still being developed; frankly, it’s like I’m doing my work as a leader from a phone instead of driving around,” he said.
The Yukon legislature will dissolve as of November 11th, but many have mused that Fentie is likely to call the election for September 25th.
Hardy would now prefer the election to come later than sooner, he said.
“I don’t have the wherewithal to tell Mr. Fentie when to call the election, but my hope is I’ll be there, and we’ll be going into an election well ready to present our platform,” he said.
“I’d like to be a little stronger, but it’s Mr. Fentie’s call.
“That’s why I wanted those fixed election dates, so I can plan my illnesses around them,” he said, chuckling.
Fentie and Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell have not called to offer words of support, noted Hardy.
Hardy’s colleagues are putting on a brave face and continuing preparations for the election.
“Take care buddy,” said Steve Cardiff, acting Yukon NDP leader, as he hung up the telephone.
The party’s election platform is still being developed but “close” to being completed, said Cardiff.
Hardy speaks with the NDP caucus every day and work continues on as if he was still there, he said.
“We’re getting ready for an election, that’s our focus,” said Cardiff.
“We will be ready.”
But the non-politician in Cardiff also made an appearance Tuesday.
“We’re all concerned about Todd,” he said.
“The natural thing to do is to tell him to look after himself. But Todd’s the best judge of that.
“If he wants to participate fully, I support that.”