RIP Mike O’Brien
May 26, 2015
REGINA — In his final blog posting, Mike O’Brien said he exuded faith — faith in his radiologist, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists and counsellors — but not in God.
“Of course, I may be wrong. I often am. Fortunately, if God really exists, I’m confident he’ll look at my overall record and let me slide on the faith/skeptic issue. It just sounds like the kind of decent thing he’d do,” he wrote on Sunday.
That same day O’Brien died, succumbing to synovial sarcoma, a cancer first diagnosed in the summer of 2011. He was 51.
The actor, known for his role on the TV show Corner Gas, started the blog in March 2014 to chronicle in a humorous way what was happening to his body. He called it The Big Diseasey.
“There’s so much stuff out there that will make you sad and depressed, and if you have cancer, why on Earth would you want to get more sad and depressed?” he said in an interview earlier this month. “Cancer pretty much gives you that. You don’t have to go find more written material to make it worse.”
Growing up in Inuvik and Victoria, O’Brien discovered early the power of making other kids laugh. Though he considered becoming an actor, he chose journalism instead, starting his career at the Medicine Hat News in Alberta, then moving east to the Regina Leader-Post. It was there he started acting again, and landed a recurring role on Corner Gas as small town liquor store/insurance agency owner Wes Humboldt. He had a regular role on HBO Canada’s Less Than Kind, and, after a series of small movie roles, he’d landed a leading role as the killer in a horror movie.
Leader-Post reporter Barb Pacholik was a colleague of O’Brien’s from 1988 to 2002. “I think what people now remember a lot was the humour and that’s what brought him to radio and CBC, where he got into comedy programs,” said Pacholik.
O’Brien’s ability to crack repeated off-the-cuff jokes — even about the stage four cancer that was cutting his life shorter than he could have predicted — is who he was.
O’Brien was admitted to palliative care in February. It was there that the cancer spread to his lungs, lymph nodes and kidney.
In the early days of March, friends and family flew to Winnipeg to say their goodbyes, thinking he was about to die. Instead, he kept blogging.
“I want to thank him for showing us all how to live while dying,” said Pacholik. He filled what time he had left remarkably well and made the most of it,” she said.
O’Brien is survived by his wife Robin Summerfield and young son Will Lang.
O’BRIEN, Mike (Michael O’Brien)
Born: 1964, Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada
Died: 5/25/2015, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Mike O’Brien’s western – actor:
The Pinkertons (TV) – 2015 (Judge John Shirley)