(On May 27 and 28, 2023, Jeff Bosko of Stittsville, and his Sabre teammates – (l-r) Zigmut, Pat, Bob and Coach, Jeff – competed in the 2023 Can/Am Veterans Cup competition held at the Vango Toronto Fencing Centre in Markham, Ontario. The team placed fourth in the Sabre competition. Photos: submitted)
Jeff Bosko of Stittsville has been enjoying the sport of fencing for seven years. Jeff was following his late father’s footsteps. His father had been a Knights Templar in the Masonic Lodge. Then in October 2021, Jeff was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour that saw him having to put his Sabre down. Not only was this devastating news heard by Jeff and his wife, but it was during the COVID pandemic. Would his health care be administered in a timely manner? Cancer patients are often taunted by the excitement of the latest breakthroughs – immunotherapy, precision medicine, gene therapies, and the like – but treatments must begin in a very short time from diagnosis.
Jeff was fortunate and within a month from his diagnosis, he was scheduled to receive three rounds of CyberKnife Stereotactic Radiosurgery treatment to his tumour. However, prior to receiving these treatments, Jeff was scheduled for an MRI. An MRI that required extra care.
When receiving a MRI eleven years ago, Jeff had experienced anaphylactic shock that had literally taken his life. When resuscitated, he found himself stripped down, lying on the floor, with an entire team of doctors, nurses and medical equipment around him. He didn’t know what had happened.
Finally being deemed healthy enough to receive his CyberKnife treatments, they began. After enduring these treatments, Jeff was informed that his tumour had shrunk 1/2 to 3/4mm to relieve his brain pressure. He was then prescribed a six-week program at the Brain Injury Clinic at the Ottawa General Hospital. A physical activity program was quickly developed including physiotherapy with a focus to increase Jeff’s stamina for walking. His brain was not communicating with his feet – an imperative if Jeff was to return to the sport he loved and everyday life. Jeff was determined that with hard work he could slowly return to his sport and work.
Jeff tells us, “fencing is a huge part of my life and I wanted to return to fencing. The hospital program was geared to get me back to fencing. I also suffered from vestibular migraines during my physio and was prescribed medications to overcome this”.
After months and months of rehab following his surgery, Jeff was able to comfortably step back on the piste again – returning to Kanata Fencing. Initially, it was a slow return with each individual class being dedicated to the footwork or to actual fencing, but he couldn’t do both in the same class.
Jeff returned to the Ottawa Developmental Fencing Circuit with his seven-year goal to win ‘just’ a ribbon while battling cancer. Since returning, Jeff has won over a dozen medals and the Sabre Championship before leaving the ODF circuit. He then moved on with a national goal – representing Canada. He soon found himself at the Can/Am Veteran’s Cup – North America’s largest and most prestigious Veteran’s tournament – on the four-man Sabre team and finished 9th in the individuals. He was 24th overall and 4th in team Sabre.
In June, Jeff won the Bronze Medal in the Kanata Fencing Club’s Sabre Championship at their year-end tournament. “I didn’t think I would have a chance,” said an humbled Jeff.
“Nothing humbles me more than actually having died and getting a second kick at the can,” said Jeff. “As long a there is a child in CHEO receiving cancer treatments, I know I have a grand life with no room to complain.”
Training every day at his classes and in his backyard, Jeff now has his fencing sword set on participating in the provincial and national championships in 2024. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at ChefSpidey-The Guy.