During the last four years, Dd Marie-Anne Archambault had a patient who made all of Quebec cry today: Karl Tremblay. As the attending physician, he accompanied the “cowboy” through all the twists and turns of his battle against cancer. Today, with the agreement of the spouse of the deceased, Marie-Annick Lépine, wishes to greet in an open letter sent to the duty the greatness of the man who became, in death, a monument.
On the other end of the line, the doctor is still excited. “I really needed to cry a lot,” she explains sadly.
Almost four years ago, she had the gall to announce to Karl Tremblay a cruel diagnosis: metastatic and inoperable prostate cancer. “Delivering this completely life-shattering news is always the hardest thing I have to do. In Karl’s case, it was all the more difficult because not only was he a 44-year-old father whose life was ruined, but which was also the icon, the monument, the voice.”
At that time, the singer was already an idol. “I was a big fan. It was really hard for me to be both a fan and a doctor who wanted to stay objective — I felt so invested,” recalls Dd Archambault. Over time, I learned to know the man beyond the artist. He was an exceptional person: I am privileged to have been able to care for him and know him. »
A death that no one expected
Always humble, “very shy”, the attractive giant still today embodies courage in the eyes of the doctor. “His illness was disgusting from the beginning,” he emphasizes. It was hateful and unfair, like all cancers, but it was especially true for Karl, who was so young. Despite all the indignities that this disease brings, I have never, ever seen him lose heart. He had a strength that is hard for me to describe, a strength that even I sometimes had a hard time harnessing to keep going. »
Thursday evening, Dd Archambault spoke on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec, surrounded by hundreds of grieving fans who found, in the heart-sung songs of the Cowboys Fringants, so many shoulders on which to lay their pain. She, incognito in the crowd, had just accompanied Karl Tremblay in his last breath, shocked by a death that no one expected so soon.
“The reason why he entered the hospital was not to die: it was to get back on his feet and start anew in another project,” emphasizes D.d Archambault. It was not expected, such a quick exit. I don’t think we could have saved him, but I think we could have extended his life longer. The disease had its own plan: it got ahead of us. »
Karl Tremblay was still scheduled to receive radiation treatments Friday. “We had to irradiate him, control the pain and then continue,” the doctor recalls. But things got away from us. The sickness, the suffering, the pain was so extreme, so indescribable, so unbearable for any human being who had to endure it, that it became overwhelming to the point of bringing him down. It was this pain that brought this great giant down: his head and his heart still wanted, but it was the body that no longer followed. »
“I really wanted Quebec”
This suffering accompanied Karl Tremblay on stage. “I was the bored doctor who told him that the stage, the tour and the chemotherapy did not go well together,” recalls Marie-Anne Archambault. He always managed to make me lie: the stage treated him more than any treatment. »
The singer wanted to give his all to his audience despite his caretaker’s concerned disapproval. Karl Tremblay had refused to let his cancer cancel a European tour: it was ultimately the pandemic that got him through this long and grueling trip across the Atlantic. “I told him that it couldn’t be, that he couldn’t go on stage. He said, “Well, yes, I can, let’s transpose, take some Decadron, and then we’ll go.” He was right: his shows they were better one after the other. He proved that his way of doing things was better than mine. »
In Quebec, a few days after giving his body and soul to an audience of 90,000 people gathered at the Summer Festival, Karl Tremblay was still hospitalized due to extreme pain. “I wanted Quebec, I really wanted Quebec. I told him again, ‘You can’t go there, it’s impossible,'” recalls the doctor. When I saw that a storm canceled the show, I saw it a little like the pandemic that had saved us from the European tour in 2020, kind of like a sign from heaven protecting my patient. Once again he received a transfusion, got on stage and made me lie: he was doing things incompatible with the life on paper, went beyond the limits. »
The wave of love that has been pouring towards her since Wednesday, coming from the four corners of the French-speaking world, particularly moves the doctor. “Karl himself would never have claimed to evoke so much love. I wrote to Marie-Annick that this wave is commensurate with the wave of grief felt by everyone. His death shocked us all, his family and me. We were in a nightmare and we wake up with this unexpected and unsuspected response of love.”
“I hope”, concludes Dr. Archambault, “that his relatives will heal a little of their pain thanks to this condition. Although it hurts, I feel blessed to have been able to care for not just a monument, but someone so important in my life. »
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