Blackthorn came to play at the 2008 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year dinner, and it was their accordionist Dianne's last gig with the band. Michelle had told me about six months ago that their band mate had been re-diagnosed with cancer, and it was amazing that she was in the studio with them completing their latest cd recording.
It has been a real pleasure getting to know the band members of Blackthorn, and seeing Michelle and Tim in their other musical incarnation on Thursday Kilts Night as the Halifax Wharf Rats. I am pleased that they have all become friends, along with Michael, and that we were able to feature them at Gung Haggis Fat Choy this year. The entire band really added a new dimension to the event, with Rosie on fiddle and Dianne on accordion.
Dianne even let me play her accordion during a pre-show rehearsal I had with Ji-Rong Huang on erhu, as my own accordion hadn't shown up at Floata Restaurant yet. Accordionists have a special bond. And it was there with Dianne, even though I feel like I hardly got to know her… But I do know her through her friends and band mates. And that is a special bond that they have shared with me.
Michael Viens of Blackthorn sent out this letter last week about Dianne:
It is with a heavy heart that I write this note and I apologize for
doing so via email but I can only make so many phone calls. Our dear
friend and band mate Dianne, passed away Wednesday night, February 27,
after a struggle with cancer.
Some of you may have known about the diagnosis, others not. She was
diagnosed with a rare eye cancer about 3 1/2 years ago and was treated
for it. She was “cancer free” for 3 years in the spring of 2007. In the
summer of 2007, however, routine x-rays showed some spots on her liver.
In August, they did a biopsy and it came back positive – the eye cancer
had metastasized to her liver. The Dr.s at the BC Cancer Clinic gave
her 6-12 months.
This was quite a blow to all of us but Dianne really got on top of it.
She had just recently acquired a laptop and spent a lot of time doing
her own research. She affected some major lifestyle changes and sought
out the support of a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine who
specialized in oncology. She also attended support and informational
The band played at the Highland Games in Canmore at the beginning of
September and happily she was able to join us there. She was originally
from Calgary so flying in to Calgary airport, we took the opportunity
to visit her childhood home, neighbourhood and school.
She started to really feel the effects of the disease these past few
months and was scheduled to start chemo last week. She kept a positive
attitude through it all and we continued to talk about our future
musical projects and shows together but I believe she also had her own
idea of how she was going to live out the remainder of her time in this
realm and did so.
We had a weekend of gigs for Robbie Burns and she was determined to be
there for them. Her mom (from 100 Mile House) and Chris, one of her
brothers and his family (Maple Ridge) all came out on the Saturday
night and enjoyed a great show. She then headed up with her husband,
Kirk, and their dog, Molly, the following week to 100 Mile House so
that she could see her dad and spend some time with her folks.
While there, she ended up in the hospital in 100 Mile House. We had
been getting daily reports via her brother and sister-in-law. Dr.s were
doing their best to control the pain and were still discussing the
possibility of chemo to try and shrink the swelling which was causing
the pain. Last night we received the call from her brother Chris that
she had stopped responding and had passed away.
We are blessed with years of great memories and in that we were able to
complete our latest CD project which she was determined to participate
in and have another lasting treasure of our time with her. We were
waiting to hear when she would be well enough to plan a CD release
party. We are now in the early stages of planning a celebration of life
for her – it'll be the big party she wanted. We will put the word out
once we have plans finalized.
Thank you for your prayers and support.
Blackthorn (clockwise from upper left) Rosie, Michelle, Dianne, Michael, Tim
– photo courtesy of Blackthorn