‘You couldn’t have it better’ than living at Columbia Garden Village, says new resident Rolf Heer. Photo by Dauna Ditson

Radium’s wizard settles into new lair with cancer in remission

Rolf Heer rests comfortably in his new abode

Rolf Heer relaxes on a plush sofa in a sunbeam that gleams through the window in the Columbia Garden Village suite where he now lives and where he intends to spend the remainder of his days.

Today, in this moment, as he sips apple cider and vodka from a red Solo cup, he’s happy.

“I love it here. It’s just great. The people are great, the staff are great and all the people living here are so nice. You know, I never lived in a place that nice,” he says. “The food is excellent, everything. I mean you couldn’t have it any better.”

But how the 65-year-old wizard feels changes by the day as do his thoughts on medically-assisted dying.

While Mr. Heer wouldn’t choose to die at this particular moment as he basks in the sunbeam, he says: “Maybe not right now, but who knows? Maybe in a week I’m feeling different again. When I get sick, I want to be dead.”

Despite obtaining approval for a medically-assisted death from one of his doctors, Mr. Heer hasn’t gotten the second signature he would need to be able to proceed. Death has to be “reasonably foreseeable” for patients to be allowed to choose their ending dates, and his cancer is in remission.

“The doctor said to me: ‘I won’t give you the medical-assistance death; I’ll make you healthy again,’” Mr. Heer says. “He did make me healthy in some way. I’m feeling fairly good right now, and I hope I can live like this for another few more years.”

One year ago, Mr. Heer’s Home of a Thousand Faces burned to the ground in Radium. Mr. Heer was dragged out but only managed to save a few of his belongings, including his prized wizard hats, before his iconic home and business turned to ash.

Mr. Heer says the fire remains the saddest day of his life, sadder than when he was diagnosed with prostate and bone cancer.

But he’s not worried about fires now that he’s living at Columbia Garden Village.

“This is not going to happen to me again. I’m living in a safe environment here. They had fire practice here today,” he says, laughing.

Since his home burned down, Mr. Heer had been staying with friends or living in a trailer on his fire-ravaged property or overnighting in the hospital. When he moved into his suite, he was so relieved to have a place of his own – and such a lovely one – that he says he cried for the first few days.

“I totally appreciate that they took me here,” he says. “I’m fine right now. I love it here and I’m set for the rest of my life here.”

Even so, he wishes he was approved for a medically-assisted death so he could decide for himself when he’s had enough.

“When you get really, really sick, you can’t go anywhere, everything hurts and what do you want? You just want to be dead. It’s a tough one,” he says. “I don’t want to die right now, but once I get really sick I don’t want to live anymore.”

While he isn’t able to return to his woodcarving work, he says entertaining his many guests keeps him busy.

“I’ll just live my life here. Enjoy life like everybody else, watch television all day long and hang out,” he says.

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