If you visit here sometimes, you’re likely aware that I’m not a sports nut. I’m not even a half-nutshell sports fan. I will go along with whatever the house is interested in. Now it’s NFL and NASCAR. So TSN’s soccer expert Gareth Wheeler wasn’t a name I knew but as soon as I heard his story, I knew we had to talk to him on our morning show.
In my introduction to him last Friday morning on CJBK I described Gareth as a “knowledgeable, affable ginger.” He’s also a young, 36-year-old man who’s had melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, on and off for the last decade.
When his Mom pointed out that a birth mark on his leg was changing shape and colour, Gareth actually told her he was “too busy to take care of myself”. He was living it up in the big city, partying, working long hours in broadcasting and having the time of his life. When he finally did go for tests, he got news he didn’t initially understand. Melanoma? Me? Since then he’s endured powerful chemotherapy, radiation, gone vegan and changed his life in several ways. The cancer receded and was all but gone for several years before coming back at Stage III, having spread to lymph nodes and his groin area.
Not all of the cancer spots were obvious. Some were just small bumps under his skin. I asked Gareth if he uses sunscreen now and he says he does but he’s not fanatical about it. (Like I am) He admits to previously abusing his body with lousy food and booze (as the young and invincible often do) as well as regularly using tanning beds. No one knows for sure what role genetics played. His goal now is to spread his message and just stay healthy.
Gareth got married last year and he’s still at TSN despite the nearly-full-time job of battling cancer. He’s got a wonderful outlook and points out that between his last remission and the cancer’s return, science has come up with several new ways to attack it. He’s currently undergoing immunotherapy at St. Margaret’s Hospital in Toronto. He tells his story in this short, compelling documentary. I hope you’ll watch it.