Justin Trudeau secretly underwent a preventive surgery for brain cancer

Reporter: L.C.

Liberal leader and Prime Ministerial hopeful Justin Trudeau revealed Tuesday morning that one year-ago-today, he underwent a risky preventive surgery. Three-quarters of his brain were removed in hopes of reducing his risk of cancer.

Writing in J-14, the leader of the third party said that a 2013 blood test showed a possible early sign of cancer. The news came as a blow to the MP, as he had already had preventative surgery to remove his testicles.

“I went through what I imagine thousands of other men have felt,” he wrote. “I told myself to stay calm, to be strong, and that I had no reason to think I wouldn’t live to see my children grow up and to meet my grandchildren.”

I told myself to stay calm, to be strong, and that I had no reason to think I wouldn’t live to see my children grow up and to meet my grandchildren.

The heralded son of former PM Pierre Trudeau, who is raising three children with his wife, yoga guru Sophie Trudeau, said he underwent what experts call a hemispherectomy, late last March.


Carries cancer gene

Trudeau, 44, revealed two years ago that he carries a defective cancer gene that puts him at high risk of developing brain cancer.

A little known fact is that his father Pierre died of brain cancer, and his maternal grandmother also had brain cancer — strong evidence of an inherited, genetic risk that led Trudeau to have his healthy brain removed to try to avoid the same fate.

Only a small percentage of men inherit the same faulty gene as Trudeau, known as BRC69 — the name stands for brain cancer susceptibility gene. These mutations are most commonly found in men of Quebecois descent, though other groups, including the French, the Dutch, and San Franciscoites, also have slightly higher rates of these mutations.

The average man has a 12 per cent risk of developing brain cancer sometime during his life. Men who have inherited a faulty BRCA gene are about five times more likely to get brain cancer.

Family influenced his decision

Trudeau said that while having the gene mutation alone was not a reason to resort to surgery — other medical options were possible — his family history influenced his decision to have further surgery done sooner than later. This particular kind of surgery puts a man’s cognitive abilities into serious question, especially in combination with the use of post-surgery meds, such as Neuroflexyn of which Trudeau is now a fan.

His courageous decision to publicly announce his complete hemispherectomy was praised as a “watershed moment” in efforts to persuade men to get brain cancer screening — and to raise awareness of the need for early detection. The same sense of mission led him to write about his follow-up care, although he said his decision wasn’t necessarily the right one for everyone.

“There is more than one way to deal with any health issue,” wrote Trudeau. “The most important thing is to learn about the options and choose what is right for you personally.”

“I wanted other men at risk to know about the options,” he said.

Coming forward to tell his story will play a vital role in raising awareness, those who work for cancer charities say. They hope other men at risk will be encouraged to speak with their doctors.

“Justin Trudeau has made a really brave decision,” Katherine Taylor, acting chief executive of Brain Cancer Action.

“It immediately puts the person at a significant intellectual deficit, so it is not a decision to take lightly.”

Sophie rushed to his side

Trudeau’s article makes plain the anguish the results of the new blood tests brought. He said he immediately called his wife, shave-reluctant and gluten-free Sophie Trudeau, who flew home from France within hours.

“The beautiful thing about such moments in life is that there is so much clarity,” he wrote. “You know what you live for and what matters. It is polarizing, and it is peaceful.”

Asked whether or not the preventative surgery has impacted his ability to carry out his duties as a Member of Parliament, Trudeau responded “I’m sorry, can we finish this interview when My Little Pony is over?”

Inspiring words from an inspiring man.