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Derick Fage: Turning Challenge into Opportunity
Derick Fage is a man about town.
He's most recognized as one of the co-hosts on Breakfast Television Montreal,
but he's also an established movie actor, an ambassador for the Canadian Continence
Foundation and a presenter at various charity and social events. He’s even done
his own TEDx Talk.
In one of the Breakfast Television conference rooms, he opens up about his prolific career and the ups and downs of his personal life. He summarizes his life experiences and philosophies into one simple motto: “Kindness goes a long way,” he says. "Being kind to people is so much easier than being miserable.”
Throughout the years, Fage has observed that people don’t always remember what you do or say, but they’ll remember how you make them feel. In that regard, Fage seeks to inspire and elevate others. But this positive mindset didn’t come without its own set of challenges.
The Dark Years
Fage was born with an imperforate anus. This is a medical condition whereby the opening to the anus is missing or blocked. Early surgery corrected this, but Fage still didn’t have a sphincter muscle. He was lucky that no serious complications arose, but he was left with numerous urinary issues as well as fecal incontinence.
This condition defined his life for many years. The reality of having to wear diapers until the age of thirteen and the countless accidents led to shame and embarrassment. Worse yet, Fage was bullied early on. As he looks back on his elementary school years, he’s very candid. “I was beaten up or verbally assaulted at least once or twice a week,” he recalls.
In high school, the bullying was less pronounced, but Fage had other issues to contend with. He was a teenage boy struggling with the usual hormonal shifts and discovering his own sexuality. While other boys his age started to have girlfriends, Fage experienced difficulty with any form of intimacy.
He became distracted and was unable to focus on his studies. On three occasions, he dropped out of high school. He feared he would never get married or have a relationship. Though he managed to graduate, he fell into a dark period during which he self-medicated with drugs and alcohol.
And on one fateful night, Fage contemplated suicide. It was planned out, to the very last detail. As he lay in bed sobbing, he experienced an epiphany. He thought about his family. He also thought about his friend and roommate who would have to find his body. In that moment, he realized how many lives would be destroyed if he took his own. “I accepted my unhappiness and realized I needed to own it,” he says. “I could no longer mask it all the time, and I had to find some way to take control of it.”
Turning Challenge into Opportunity
Even in his early years, Fage often managed to maintain a positive disposition. And despite his challenges, he was able to develop confidence. He credits much of his strength to the unwavering support and love from his family. His family and friends not only comforted him in his time of need, but also encouraged him to live up to his potential. Fage also had the ability to compartmentalize and let things go rather than getting lost in grief.
Despite his medical condition, Fage had a great childhood that led to a wonderful life. “I didn’t want my medical condition to stop me from living my life,” he says with resolution. In fact, his medical condition helped him grow and evolve in positive ways. He credits his incontinence for helping him become more empathetic and allowing him to connect with others more easily. He also learned to never take things for granted. As he so eloquently expressed in his TEDx Talk, “I am grateful that I was born with a medical issue, as it has shaped the person I am today.”
If he could go back in time, he would not change a thing. “Because of what I’ve been through,” he explains, “I’m a more caring, understanding person, a better husband, a better father, a better friend and a better television host. I’m able to overcome challenges and turn them into opportunities.”
Career in Television
Fage’s ability to genuinely connect with others serves him greatly in his television career. In his youth, he was always drawn to drama and theater. He eventually landed gigs in independent films, commercials and voice-over projects, though he worked in the administration department for an accounting firm as his day job.
Then a life-changing opportunity presented itself. He saw an ad seeking a host for Daytime Ottawa, a local community-based television show on Rogers TV. Fage immediately applied. To his amazement, he became a finalist and landed the position.
But it was only part-time, which led to logistical complications. Every day, he went to his job at the accounting firm, then left for three hours to tape the television show, after which he returned to the firm to finish work. Through sheer determination and dedication, he maintained this hectic schedule for three years until he became a full-time host. He remained at Daytime Ottawa for eleven years and felt grateful he could walk into work every day and simply be himself.
Then another opportunity presented itself. He was invited to temporarily fill in for a co-host at Breakfast Television Montreal, and eventually got offered a full-time position. It was not an easy decision to pick up and leave his life in Ottawa, but he ultimately decided he could not miss this chance. Today, Fage thoroughly enjoys the fast-paced and dynamic rhythm of Breakfast Television Montreal and appreciates every aspect of his job.
The Canadian Continence Foundation
For others who suffer from incontinence, being on live television may be unfathomable. But not for Fage. He never questioned it. He simply followed his heart and soared through all the challenges with brute fearlessness.
Though it’s not regularly spoken about, incontinence is a common problem. Approximately four million Canadians suffer from either urinary or fecal incontinence. And as luck would have it, Fage found himself about to interview the executive director of The Canadian Continence Foundation one day. Before the interview, he admitted he suffered from fecal incontinence. The director asked him to share this on live television, which he did.
“Immediately after I shared my story publicly, I was met with an outpouring of love and support,” he says. “I was grateful, but also overwhelmed at the amount of support I received from complete strangers, both incontinent and not.” Anybody who ever struggled in their life identified with Fage’s story.
Fage eventually became an ambassador for The Canadian Continence Foundation. He wants to raise awareness and help people understand the challenges incontinent people face. Fage also suggests some businesses keep their bathrooms available for people who suffer from incontinence. He himself has been denied access on numerous occasions, which led to humiliating accidents. In addition, he would like to see more resources and support groups.
As an ambassador for The Canadian Continence Foundation, Fage is often invited to various conferences to speak on the subject. For instance, he recently travelled to Rome to attend The Global Forum on Incontinence to present a speech. He is grateful to be able to speak about his experiences first-hand, and also advocate for awareness and change.
On Maintaining Balance
Between doing live television, hosting charity events, and his work with The Canadian Continence Foundation, Fage’s schedule is often grueling. He’s also a happily married man with two children. So how does he maintain balance in his life?
“I do my best to stay in the present moment, especially with family and friends,” he says. “I’m a busy, high-energy man, but I can also relax and enjoy life.” Fage and his wife have a cottage and frequently bring their children there. It’s refuge of sorts, a slice of tranquility where they can connect with one another, and disconnect from work obligations and social media.
One of the central messages he wants to bring to people is that if he can do it, others can. Despite fecal incontinence, Fage leads an active and satisfying life. He hikes, canoes, swims, goes to the theater, and attends many social functions. He wants to inspire others to overcome whatever challenges they face and pursue their dreams.
For Fage, the biggest reward is connecting with others on a genuine level. He speaks about how positive energy propagates, and how even a simple smile can change someone’s mood. “Some people believe that in order to succeed, you need to push others down,” he says. “But I think it’s the opposite. When you are kind and praise others, both people are elevated.”
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