Hosting with brain cancer: What one man is giving to promote democracy in Calgary

·4 min read
Christopher Brown hosts the podcast Cross Border Interviews. The walls of his studio are covered with election-related buttons. (Submitted by Christopher Brown - image credit)
Christopher Brown hosts the podcast Cross Border Interviews. The walls of his studio are covered with election-related buttons. (Submitted by Christopher Brown - image credit)

Calgarian Christopher Brown is single-handedly organizing, promoting and hosting seven ward-level candidate forums for the municipal election.

He also has brain cancer — with his tumour growing and surgery on hold because of the COVID fourth wave.

It's hard. He seized up live on air during the Ward 4 debate Monday evening. But this is his mission, he says. He's helping people get the information they need to get engaged. It's what keeps him going through an agonizing wait to get health care.

"I'm fighting this," he said. "The conversations I've had through the show have been a god-send. I love being able to talk to people. While I'm still here, while I'm fighting this, I'll do this until the last breath in my body.

"If you find something that brings you joy in the darkest of times, you continue to do it."

Brown, a former professional journalist, started the podcast Cross Border Interviews in 2019 and kept at in throughout the pandemic. It's focused on long-form local interviews with guests from across the political spectrum, and his most-watched forum so far has 1,100 views.

CBC Calgary heard of his work through the community. Voters and candidates in Ward 12 flagged it as the only forum being held for their area.

The Ward 12 forum runs Thursday, broadcast live on YouTube, with questions submitted by community members.

Brown was diagnosed with cancer in 2020 with an initial surgery, chemo and radiation to shrink the tumour. He was supposed to have one more surgery this fall, but that was postponed. As he waits, the tumour is growing. Seizures started about three weeks ago.

His husband, Ricardo Miranda, is trying to watch out for him, especially during the live events.

"I'm always on edge because it could happen at any time. We could be having a conversation and then all of the sudden he stops responding and I realizing he's having a seizure and losing consciousness," said Miranda, who joined Brown on a phone call with CBC Calgary.

The stress and any exercise seem to bring it on.

"Three to four weeks ago was the first time I saw them get really bad," said Miranda. "It was basically after he stopped getting treatment.

"The chemo, the radiation, are supposed to shrink the tumour in his brain, which is touching the motor centre of his body. And so, with it being unchecked now, it started growing again and all the problems from before have come back again."

Brown says the chemo and radiation stopped in preparation for surgery. Now he doesn't know when that next step will come. He says a few people in his cancer support group recently got calls to reschedule theirs, so he has hope.

Miranda is the former NDP minister for culture. The two of them met two years ago in Slave Lake, where Brown was working on a political campaign. They fell in love and were married in six months.

It's been hard to watch Brown go through this, says Miranda, especially when they dreamed of a honeymoon and family. But he's proud.

"To see him really be so exhausted that he can't get out of bed but still manage to put this show on, it's amazing to me. I'm really proud of the fact he wants to give people a voice."

Brown says some conservative candidates have declined to come on his show because of Miranda's previous affiliation with the NDP. But the show doesn't take a political angle.

Screencapture/YouTube
Screencapture/YouTube

"If anyone has listened to the show, they know that I am a disillusioned voter. At the end of the day, I think all people who put themselves forward are doing it for the right reasons, whether it be Jason Kenney or Justin Trudeau," he said. "They're doing it for what they believe in. I'm willing to talk with any of them."

"I've had municipal candidates from across the party spectrum on the show. I take party politics out of it and I look at them as a person," he said.

"If you listen to the show, you know I'm just having an honest-to-god conversation with people."

Cross-border Interviews: election forums

Coming up:

Note: Some forums had better candidate participation than others.

Submit your questions for the debate.

What would you like the candidates to be talking about, both for your neighbourhood and the city? Tell CBC Calgary about it, give us some detail and together we can dig deeper into some key election issues. You're invited to add your thoughts here.

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