Real Community Conversations

4 Years Ago, Tonight…

By Paul Tate

Photo courtesy of Paul Tate

Our little big town of Milton is home to just over 120,000 residents. Paul Tate is a longtime Miltonian. This is part of his story, in his own words…

Milton, Canada: Paul Tate and Lucy. Photo courtesy of Paul Tate.

April 11, 2017 – Milton, ON – 4 years ago tonight I was told I had Leukaemia. I spent the night getting transfusions in Milton Emergency. My hemoglobin was 70 (should be 150) and my platelets were 10 (should be 300 or so). 3 days later I became a patient at the Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton. (It is an awesome place that is my second home.) It was confirmed that I had Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) – not nice. The facts were that over age 60 – 95% die within 5 to 10 months. I’ve never considered myself to be a part of the 95%…none of us should.

I was in great physical shape because of a lifestyle of MTB, Hockey (100 games annually), Skiing, Yoga, Tennis, and Whack…

I started with chemo one of 6 rounds over 7 months. I spent 45 days in an isolation room. When my doctor told me I would be in hospital for 6 weeks at least that Saturday, I was frankly in shock. I was strong enough to survive and left hospital after chemo rounds to mountain bike feeling sick as a dog. My doctors tried to get me to stop exercising (they feared injury and exhaustion) and I had to battle to get a stationary bike in my hospital room. I maintained some level of fitness. My main Doctor (I have about 15) took up playing hockey for the first time in his life because of me. He couldn’t believe what physical conditioning can do.

So, friends stay in shape

Milton, Canada – Paul Tate on his mountain bike in 2011. Photo courtesy of Paul tate.

After 6 rounds of chemo I had a stem cell transplant to replace my DNA with new blood. That transplant was necessary to keep me alive. It’s incredibly risky. That I’m alive is basically due to 2 things. Great medical care that’s highly experimental and incredibly dangerous, and my family who has supported me.

Today I am still very ill. In fact, I can’t train. I can barely walk. I have Graft Verse Host Disease (GVHD) which is an immunological disease caused by my body fighting against the ‘foreign’ DNA. GVHD manifests itself in many ways depending on the patient. I had 40+ treatments of Photopheresis, which is similar to dialysis where they clean your blood. (40 days as outpatient at Toronto general. Up at 5 AM in Toronto by 8AM hooked intravenously to a machine for 4 hours. Then home. Brutal.) I basically have rheumatoid arthritis combined with scleroderma. Heart disease comes from GVHD and I had a heart attack and stent installed in February 2016. (My heart was like a 45-year old’s when I got sick, it’s about 70 now.) And I’m down over 50 lbs still. I have osteoporosis from Prednisone that combats GVHD. I still take about 12 different pills a day and see doctors several times a week.

I have discovered many things on this adventure:

  • I have some new friends who are the most remarkable individuals you will ever meet. Tough, fearless, funny, brave. They don’t complain about a cold, or a headache, or…
  • That I am very tough like the people above. Unless you have been here ya don’t have a clue.
  • I know who my real friends are.
  • That tomorrow has never been guaranteed to any of us.
  • We need more research because stems cells are the wave of the future.
  • Things like juicing and organic foods really help!
  • Reasons for living. My kids have all done well the last 4 years. My granddaughter is an extraordinary child…(they all are). Seeing their progress and their successes is very good for me. The addition of golden doodle Lucy, my very good pal, who spends a great deal of our time together very close to me has been an awesome game changer. How she treats me differently relative to the healthy people in her life is remarkable.

That’s it. My annual anniversary comment on the state of my staying alive experiment.