Retired firefighter Randy Piticco and his wife

Jays game gifted to Langley cancer patient

Walnut Grove's Randy Piticco, fighting lung cancer, was flown to Toronto for a ball game this week.

Ninth-row seats behind home plate to see Game 4 of the American League Championship Series was literally a dream come true for Langley’s Randy and Marilyn Piticco.

The Langley Advance first told you about Randy, a 61-year-old retired Surrey fire captain living with lung cancer, a few weeks back when friends and family rallied on the front lawn of his Walnut Grove home to sing him Happy Birthday.

A video of that experience went viral, and since then people have been reaching out to Randy, thanking him for his years of service as a firefighter, and giving him strength in his battle against the life-threatening disease.

Even before the birthday bash, his “brothers” in the Surrey fire department have been working to demo and replace a dilapidated deck in the Piticco’s backyard.

Another surprise arrived last weekend, when some of his “brothers” announced that he and Marilyn were going to Toronto this week.

On Friday, Marilyn literally woke up from a dream where her husband was surrounded by a sea of Blue Jay blue where Randy was doing what he’s loved doing since his fight with cancer started – watching baseball.

Marilyn woke up the next morning thinking how great it would be for Randy to actually see one of the playoff games live, and stewed over what it would take to make that happen for the love of her life.

But given his illness, and his constant pain, flying him to a game in Toronto seemed impractical – to say the least. And they didn’t know anyone with a private plane, she joked.

Nevertheless, she mentioned this very vivid dream to friends the next morning on her Facebook page, and before she knew it, the dream was coming true.

The International Association of Firefighters’ 6th district vice-president arrived at their home with a huge gift.

Labatt’s brewery had supplied tickets to Tuesday’s Game 4 between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Kansas City Royals.

Further, Surrey firefighters had pulled together money to cover a three-night stay at the Hyatt in Toronto and first-class airfare with Air Canada to Toronto.

Arrangements had even been made to have a car service drive them around Toronto, although that wasn’t necessary because members of the Toronto fire department chauffeured the couple everywhere and lavished them with attention and aid.

“It was unbelievable,” Marilyn said of the experience from the Air Canada VIP lounge Thursday afternoon, as they prepared to fly home.

They were treated like royalty the whole time, Marilyn added, from getting pod seating on the plane that allowed Randy to recline and rest comfortably during the flight there and back, to the red carpet rolled out for them during their stay in Toronto – including a steak dinner cooked and served up at one of the local firehalls Wednesday night.

Of course, Marilyn said, the highlight was the baseball game. But there was many other surprises and highlights, too.

Throughout Randy’s chemotherapy, and on bad days where his pain in his back and his bones have been unbearable, it was always watching baseball that got him through.

“Baseball has been a big thing for him… Even if all he could do was listen to a game, it was soothing for him. Guy therapy, if you will,” Marilyn explained.

Randy had often commented to his wife on how impressed he was with the team spirit demonstrated this season by the Blue Jays.

“He told me several times how he was inspired by them, by their team effort,” she recounted.

Never having been to a major league game before – the highest level being a Vancouver Canadian’s game at Nat Bailey Stadium – this was an experience neither of them will ever forget.

The Blue Jays mascot showed up at their seats and presented them with team caps and jerseys of Randy’s two favourite players, Josh Donaldson and Kevin Pillar.

Marilyn was also grateful to the Roger’s Arena staff. They checked in on them regularly in an effort to make sure Randy was as comfortable as possible and that they had everything they could possibly need.

“The overall experience of being at a major league game was the highlight for Randy,” Marilyn said. “He was so engrossed in the game, it was incredible.”

Unfortunately, the three-hour game was too much for Randy to sit through.

“He made it through to nearly the end,” Marilyn said, noting one of the other fans had her in tears before they left.

With all the attention being lavished on Randy, several spectators nearby asked what was going on.

When the story was told, many folks nearby came up to shake Randy’s hand and thank him for his service and wish him well with his cancer battle.

But one spectator in particular, a man in his 30s who they only knew as Rick, not only thanked Randy but offered to buy him tickets to the next night’s game.

Knowing Randy needed to conserve his energy, the Langley couple reluctantly declined, but Marilyn said that she and the donor were both wiping away tears from under their sunglasses as the gesture was made.

“The kindness of a stranger, of so many strangers, that was the highlight of the night – of the trip – for me,” Marilyn said.

Even though it was only one game, it was a three-day trip because Randy needed time in between to rest, Marilyn explained, her eyes welling up with tears again as she recounted all the kindness.

There were offers to take the Piticcos sightseeing while in Toronto, but most offers were declined – in part the couple was fearful of Randy’s exposure to germs. Besides, Marilyn said, much of the time he just needed to rest.

“But it was a dream come true for me, too,” Marilyn said, noting that special arrangements were made to take her back to an area just outside of Toronto where she grew up.

She had a chance to visit her old home and elementary school, places she hadn’t seen in 45 years.

“The whole thing, it was just so unbelievable. It’s overwhelming. I’ve been breaking into tears at a moment’s notice, and Randy’s been in tears with me many times,” she said, overcome again by with emotion but noting that her husband has never been much of one to cry.

“This stuff has brought him to tears and in part because it’s all coming at once… it’s so much,” Marilyn said. “It feeling like an emotional whirlwind.”

Striving to get back on a more humourous note, Marilyn interjected: “I don’t know how we’re going to go back to our regular lives… This really was a dream come true. Thank you to everyone who has made this possible.”

Marilyn expressed special gratitude to Lorne West, the 6th district IAFF who got the ball rolling for them.

“Thank you all around to so many for making this dream come true, Fred LeBlanc IAFF 13th DVP, to Toronto Local 3888 to Air Canada, to Hyatt Regency, to Executive Limousine, and of course to Labatt’s who without the generous offer of the game tickets, none of this could have taken place. Last but not least, to all the Local 1271 members,” she concluded.

 

• Stay tuned to the print and online editions of the Langley Advance for more on the deck rebuilding efforts.

• Click here to see the previous story on Randy Piticco

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