John Elliot, August 2011
In February of 2011, John Elliot went to see his family physician in Erin,
Tennessee, complaining of a constant stomach ache and being unusually
tired. You see, John’s primary hobby and most favorite thing to
do every day was – work. He has worked as a painter since the early
1960s when he taught himself the ins and outs of house painting. His first
job was for an elderly couple who gave him a $50 bonus for a job well
done. John says that with the extra money, he almost broke even on the
job. That simple bonus showed him that hard work and attention to detail
pays off in the end.
Since that day, John estimates he worked 12 - 14 hours a day. He would
do one job, come home, clean up and go to another job. He was always working.
“I like working, I like seeing a job completed, bidding on the next
job and being chosen to DO the job.”
At the doctor’s office, x-rays were taken which showed fluid accumulation
in his peritoneal cavity. His doctor told him "You have a lot of
fluid on your stomach that's not supposed to be there!” He immediately
referred John to a cancer specialist to determine the cause of the fluid.
John with his daughter Sherry
A few weeks later, John met with a specialist up the road in Clarksville,
Tennessee who after examining him told John “Well, you have a little
bit of fluid on your stomach, but I don't think it's anything
to be concerned about.” He sent John home with a prescription for
an antibiotic. When John informed his family doctor about the results
of the consultation, his doctor was aghast and scheduled John for a peritoneal
tissue biopsy. The tissue specimens were sent to Vanderbilt University
in Nashville, Tennessee where pathologists, using immunohistochemical
staining returned a diagnosis of peritoneal malignant mesothelioma.
After the diagnosis, John met with a local oncologist who wanted to begin
treating him with chemotherapy – a combination of Alimta and Carboplatin.
Surgical intervention was ruled out due to the fact the mesothelioma had
wrapped itself around the intestines and parts of John’s liver.
After one treatment, John decided to discontinue the treatments. It was
explained to him that with the treatments, his life would be extended
three to six months. The side effects of the first treatment helped him
decide that he wanted quality of life over quantity.
In March of 2011, John was set up under hospice care. That was twelve months
ago. “I think my decision was right, because I have outlived all
of their estimates!”
He still finds time to visit with his five children, three step-children,
23 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Eight years ago, he given
a horse that he still keeps on his 60 acres in Erin. Black Jack was supposed
to be for his kids and then grandkids to ride and spoil, but none of them
ever rode Black Jack. Turns out, they are all afraid of horses! “It
did not quite work out the way I planned it.” These days, according
to John, Black Jack is just one big pet because John does not ride horses either.
Currently, John takes Oxycontin and morphine for pain. He is still under
the care of hospice and has become close friends with his nurses, as everyone
does after spending any time with John. He lives near his daughter Sherry
who owns her own paint contracting business. Several times a week, Sherry
picks John up and takes him to the job site to import his wisdom and sense
of humor to the workers.
John with sons Lucky and John. Missing are daughters Dawn and Heather
Since his diagnosis, he has taken a trip to Costa Rico, visited one of
his daughters and brothers in California, enjoyed a “game or two”
in Las Vegas and is planning a cruise toward the end of the month.
John is very philosophical about his mesothelioma and open-minded. “The
main thing that people, everybody, will find out when you're dying
is to get your own head around the fact that you're dying, okay, and
once you can do that then you can, kind of, go on with the rest of your
life the best you can. Am I sick? Well, I'm sick with the mesothelioma,
but I don't feel sick. I'm not sick, I'm dying. There's
a difference in the -- in the two things, you know.
“I will go when I am ready and not before.”
*** Posted on April 10, 2012 ***
** John Elliot passed away on January 3, 2013 **