December 27, 2004
No slowing down
Forget cancer -- Callwood's got a sports car and lots of fight left in her
Just weeks ago, June Callwood was nearly arrested. She and two other noted authors, Mary Jo Leddy and Joy Kogawa, staged a sit-in at the Toronto constituency office of Citizenship and Immigration Minister Judy Sgro, on behalf of an Eritrean man who's been refused entry into Canada. The police were prepared to take the women in for trespassing, but 80-year-old Callwood made a last-minute phone call to the Prime Minister's Office, garnering a compromise -- and narrowly averting handcuffs.
The list of causes the Toronto journalist/ author/civil libertarian has taken on is enough to make anyone feel inadequate. She co-founded a women's hostel (Nellie's), a centre for pregnant teens (Jessie's) and an AIDS hospice (Casey House). Callwood has also written nearly 30 books. And even after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer last September, she is not letting any of us off the hook. She's currently working on behalf of the Campaign Against Child Poverty, testifying in front of Senate committees on various issues, teaching Rick Mercer to kick a field goal on Monday Report, hanging out with babies at Jessie's -- and hoping to take another solitary drive to Florida in her sports car.
Since learning of her cancer, Callwood has refused chemotherapy and has publicly embraced death -- but it's having a hell of a time catching up with her. "My cancer's growing very slowly," she says. "I'm tired, and I don't have energy toward the end of the day. Other than that, I'm okay." So, despite being an expert on caregiving -- she hosted a TV show on the topic and wrote Twelve Weeks in Spring, a non-fiction account of a group of women looking after a cancer-stricken friend -- Callwood herself needs very little help. "No, I don't need any caregiving," she says, "except for people to be nice to me -- and that's happening."
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