Layton cancels first public appearance since cancer announcement

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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BRAMPTON, Ont. - Health issues forced Jack Layton to miss his first scheduled appearance since announcing he has cancer, a sign the NDP leader may not be able to sustain his usual frenetic pace while he is receiving treatment.
The 59-year-old NDP leader revealed Friday he was diagnosed in December with prostate cancer, a disease his father overcame.
He has vowed to beat it too and stay on as leader of the New Democrats and MP for Toronto-Danforth, though fighting the disease may have already put a dent in the energetic politician's normally jam-packed schedule of community and cultural events.
Layton was scheduled to attend two public events Saturday, though health concerns forced him to trim it back to one. At a gala fundraiser celebrating Chinese New Year in Toronto, Layton - a mainstay at such functions - said he doesn't want to have to ease up on attending them.
"I hope not, because I love these events," he said. "It's like you're being invited into the living room of each community."
Earlier in the day he was scheduled to attend a celebration for a local publication in Brampton, Ont., at a Sikh place of worship, but wasn't able to make it.
"I didn't speak to his doctors, but he was not in a condition to travel," said Layton's spokesman Karl Belanger.
"I do not know if it was related to his cancer or not."
Layton did call one of the speakers at the event, Jagtar Shergill, who held his phone up to a microphone as Layton read his prepared remarks.
"First, I apologize for not being able to be there with you today," Layton said.
"I am however honoured to be able to join you by phone, celebrating the sixth anniversary of Road News being published and distributed in the community."
Saturday evening, when Layton and Chow arrived at the Dragon Ball in Toronto, they were greeted by well-wishers at every turn.
"I said (to Layton), at the end of the day I appreciate what he's been doing for his party and for the people of Canada, but certainly take care of himself because health above all is important," said Richmond Hill, Ont., Coun. Godwin Chan.
Pauline Tong, president of the Yee Hong Community Wellness Foundation, a charity supporting seniors and their families and the beneficiary of Saturday's fundraiser, said it's "amazing" that Layton showed up.
"He's treating life as exciting as it can be," she said. "He's a fighter. I said he's going to be living more than 100 years old."
Chow is also a cancer survivor, having won a battle with thyroid cancer.
Layton said he especially didn't want to miss the Dragon Ball, in its 21st year, because he and his wife - NDP MP Olivia Chow - have attended each year.
"He's also born in the year of the tiger," Chow said.
"This is my year," Layton chimed in. "And my mother-in-law's year. We have two tigers in the house."
Layton said Friday that his treatment plan is underway, but his staff said the details would remain between Layton and his doctor.
Layton has represented the riding of Toronto-Danforth since 2004. He just celebrated his seventh anniversary as leader.

Organizations: NDP, Road News, Yee Hong Community Wellness Foundation

Geographic location: BRAMPTON, Toronto, Canada Richmond Hill

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