Our family hosted a benefit concert at the Imperial Theatre on Oct. 7 called Al Weiss and Friends, which raised money for the Breast Cancer Society of Canada and mammography department at Bluewater Health.
This was our third concert since 2013, and it came about because of my wife Michelle’s journey with breast cancer.
In the fall of 2012 Michelle biked home after a mammogram and doctor’s visit to tell us what everyone fears – that she had been diagnosed with aggressive Stage 2 cancer.
After a few tears, our daughter Sidney and I contemplated whether we should go to Pittsburgh the next day for a hockey tournament, or stay home with Michelle and refrain from distracting the team.
Michelle banged the kitchen table and said, “I am going to Pittsburgh with or without you guys. I feel fine! There is nothing wrong with me.”
We went to the tournament and kept it from the team. Her surgery was scheduled for the following week. I drove down to Toronto to tell our son Parker, who was at university. This wasn’t something I wanted to tell him over the phone.
Following emergency surgery, and during chemotherapy, Michelle’s mother passed suddenly and unexpectedly. Michelle remained strong for her father and kept moving forward. Radiation in London followed, and she began a daily dose of Letrazole to help prevent recurrence of the disease.
The care from the hospital’s medical staff was compassionate and professional. We were also aware that without the mammogram Michelle would have been in even bigger trouble. We decided to bring these two things to the attention of the public through a benefit concert.
Sidney’s hockey team helped organize ticket sales, silent auction prizes and sponsors, and our first concert occurred in October 2013. I phoned some musicians and business friends and they all agreed to help. We sold out the theatre and raised $10,000. The following year we raised $11,000.
Recently we decided to revisit the idea. Michelle is in her fifth year of being cancer-free, and is within months of being free of her daily pill and semi-annual visit to the oncologist.
After graduating from Music Performance, our son Parker joined the band Yasgurs Farm, which hosted this year’s sold-out show. Through the generous donations of our sponsors, silent auction donors, the musicians and the community, the sold-out concert raised another $27,000, bringing the three-concert total to almost $50,000.
The Weiss family — Michelle, Parker, Sidney and myself — want to thank the community. And ladies, book that mammogram, and if you don’t, hopefully your husbands will do it for you, as I did.
Al Weiss is a freelance musician and a member of the Riverview Jazz Trio