Someone once asked me “What are you going to do when you retire?”
Without hesitating, I answered, “I don’t know!”
From the first day that I started working to support myself (in 1968), I told myself that things would get more comfortable if I worked hard. And if things did get better for me – I would be happy then, right?
Things never seem to get more comfortable because the wish list continues to grow. And then you retire at 55, and there’s the sudden realization that it’s almost over and you haven’t accomplished what you’d hoped you would, those many years ago.
You start a second career as an actor – your childhood dream – and find you’re back to “selling yourself” again.
A wise old man once told me that before you can sell anything you have first to sell yourself. And he should know – he had been the president of Lever Brothers, and before that, he headed up the European division of Wonder Bra.
He told me a story that I’ve since retold many times. His claim to fame began when he was a salesman for Pepsodent toothpaste (Lever Brothers).
At the time, people could only purchase toothpaste in a drug store. It was difficult to find new business – but that’s what his sales manager wanted.
So he began knocking on the door of the buyer for the A&P Grocery Stores chain. At the time, they were the largest grocery store chain in the USA. It took several months of painful rejection, but he was finally able to to get the buyer to place an initial order for each of the stores – coast-to-coast. The initial order amounted to more than a million dollars, which was a significant achievement.
When he called his sales manager the next day to tell him about his success the day before, he said the line went quiet for about 10 seconds. And when his sales manager finally answered, he asked: “What have you done today?”
It’s a story that I’ll never forget.
Anyway, back to my retirement.
I was happy with the successes that I was having as an actor until that day in June 2009 when I found out I had Stage 3 throat cancer and the oncologists were only giving me a 40% chance of surviving. Suddenly, you are filled with terror – knowing that you might not be around for another birthday.
And for the next few months of treatments, it takes every ounce of strength in your body and soul to fight the battle to survive.
But I knew I couldn’t do it alone – and I didn’t do it alone – because every person (medical and administrative staff) working at the Fraser Valley Cancer Centre did everything possible to help me in my battle. And they did so in a very loving, compassionate and tireless manner.
My treatments ended in October 2009. I am alive today because of the care that I received at the Cancer Centre.
I started as a volunteer at the Cancer Centre in Surrey in September 2011 and have been working in the chemo room every week since then.
I am trying to “pay it forward,” but I know that it will take forever to do so. But that’s my goal.
And I am so lucky to be a volunteer – it’s one of the most rewarding and satisfying things that I have done in my life. But I am not alone – there are 13.3 million volunteers in Canada – all trying to make a small difference in someone’s life.
And I still hear that sage old man I knew in the 70’s asking, “What have you done today Danny?”
My answer would now be: “Cancer made me become the kind of person that I’ve always wanted to be.”
Today’s Tune (from Danny’s library of purchased music):