It was Lyle Bauer's first public speaking appearance since it was disclosed that he had been diagnosed with throat cancer this past December.
"My speech will be short," the Winnipeg Blue Bombers president/CEO squeaked out yesterday. "My voice is coming back but it's not real good. My staff loves it because I can't yell very much when I'm in the office."
Bauer was on hand for the official launch of the "Never Alone" wrist bands, a symbol of banding together in the fight to tackle cancer and to support its victims. The Bombers have joined forces with Canada Safeway to sell the $5 blue bracelets to raise funds for CancerCare Manitoba. They are now on sale at all 35 local Safeway stores, as well as the Bomber Store, coinciding with Cancer Month. About 2,000 of the 10,000 produced have already been sold and more can be made on demand. The Bombers will also be selling them at all home games this season.
"This is a very important program," a thinner Bauer said. "Obviously, I have a personal investment here at this time.
"The 'Never Alone' theme really sprang up from how overwhelmed I was when I found out I had cancer and I did feel very alone. What I found out is that I was anything but lonely. I was completely surrounded by people who just came out of the woodwork -- who made sure my comfort was there, anything I needed was there from the CancerCare facility, the staff, the health-care givers, the CancerCare patients, past cancer patients as well. It was overwhelming.
"What this did was to open my eyes that, regardless of the circumstances, people rise to the occasion to support you in your fight and this is what impressed me the most."
Bauer, 46, was also surprised to learn just how many people and their families the disease affects. In fact, statistics show that one in three people will, at some point, be diagnosed with cancer and that number is expected to double over the next 10 years.
"I found out that many people have been touched by cancer personally, or somebody they love, and I am sure that is applicable within this room," he said correctly during the press conference held at the Blue and Gold Room. "So, it's important for us all to mesh together and be very supportive and show our pride, show our awareness, to support those who happen to be afflicted with this disease and their families. It is also very important to create the awareness in addition to education and research, which the funds will supply ... I can't say how proud I am to be a part of this program -- and the Winnipeg Football Club."
Bauer is actually the one who initiated the program.
Displaying the bands will also show that everyone is in the fight together.
Bauer, by the way, has finished his treatments but will not know the results for about six weeks.
"Normally, it takes about six weeks for the recovery," said Dr. Dhali Dhaliwal, president/CEO of CancerCare Manitoba. "Just as we never make predictions at this stage, as we are at the end of his treatment, he will be evaluated as to the impact of the treatment. He is doing very well (but) it is a confidential issue and I will not comment on it."
The "Never Alone" theme can go beyond those affected by cancer.
"(It) is not only applicable for those affected by cancer," Bauer said in a release. "It can be a basis for our lives, our families and our faith."