A lot has happened in Paul Ellis’s life since his last Vanguard interview in 2008.
Paul Ellis has raised thousands for cancer research and appreciates life more than ever before, having lived the past seven years with an inoperable brain tumour. Photograph by www.raysteinke.com
Ellis, whose parents are Arnold and Bernise Ellis of Milton Highlands, lived for two decades in Yarmouth. In 2004 he was told he had an inoperable brain tumour. The news was hard to accept at first.
“I just couldn't get it out of my mind. I had to go on anti-depressant pills but then one day my family doctor looked at me and said ‘Paul, you are not dying of a brain tumour, you are living with a brain tumour,’ and from that day onwards, I have lived to the fullest I can, enjoying being a husband and father.
Although chemotherapy and radiation kept him down for a while and he struggles at times with the tumour, severe sleep apnea, arthritis, chronic fatigue and chronic headaches, he’s showed surprising resiliency.
Now living in St. Catherines, Ontario, he has ridden in four Rides to Conquer Cancer, from Toronto to Niagara Falls, for a total of well over 800 kilometers, raising over $16,000.
“Next year they are expecting about 5,000 cyclists but there will be only 444 cyclists that can claim they’ve done all five rides. We will be rewarded with a Golden Helmet with our name painted on it,” said Ellis.
He hopes to raise $5,000 for the 2012 ride.
In 2009, he rode to Toronto the day before the Ride to Conquer Cancer to train. UPS sponsored him, supplying their brown uniform and sending a UPS truck to follow. The company also donated $500 to the Hospital for Sick Children.
He says he has written a bucket list for his life and encourages everyone to come up with their own before they are too old, or diagnosed (with cancer) and it is too late.
His (accomplished) list includes walking the Great Wall of China, visiting Japan, Hong Kong, Russia, the Vatican City, the pyramids in Egypt, Jesus’ tomb, swimming in the Dead Sea, touring the Coliseum, riding camels in Egypt, and visiting the Sea of Galilee.
Since the brain tumour he has met the Prime Minister, four NHL Hall of Famers, was an Olympic torch bearer and saw Canada/USA and Canada/Russia junior hockey games in Buffalo.
Last May he “rode shotgun” for a day with the Ontario Provincial Police. He still plans on walking the outside of the CN Tower (Edgewalk) and to have a one-on-one meeting with Don Cherry.
Ellis, a 15-year veteran of the Canadian military, volunteers in the community as much as he can. Three times a week he delivers hot and frozen food to the elderly and sick for Meals on Wheels. Once a week he delivers frozen food to a hospital, community care centre and to another Meal on Wheels office. He also volunteers every other Friday night at his legion and puts in dozens of hours selling poppies each November.
In reflecting about his diagnosis, he says he first “took it hard and thought I was too young and had two young boys that would be without a father.”
His oldest son Zachery helps him and receives over 100 hours each year for high school community hours (he’s only required to do 10 hours per year). They also volunteer as road marshals for fund raising events.
Ellis, Zachery and his other son, Mackenzie, have an annual tradition of having their picture taken with the Stanley Cup at the Hockey Hall of Fame, spending the day together and taking in either a baseball game, football game, or basketball game.
“They will definitely have so many memories of our lives together. We are best friends,” said Ellis.
As a motivational speaker, he has talked about living with cancer at two elementary schools, to patients and doctors at a cancer hospital, in front of cyclists before a cancer ride fundraiser and for a new cancer centre in St. Catharines.
Although his next MRI is slated for August 2012, he wants to change the appointment so he can attend his Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School’s 30th reunion if he is well enough to travel.
“It will make it seven years if I pass next year’s MRI. So I want to cycle from home in St. Catharines to the Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton to receive my news. Lucky Seven, I hope,” he said.
Ellis says his belief in God has helped him through the tough times.
“Once you are diagnosed with a killer disease, you really realize how precious life is and how short life is. Life has been so great and I took the right highway of life when I left Yarmouth in 1986 and chose the most amazing woman to marry and have sons with. I have no regrets at all.
“I will always be an East Coaster no matter where I am living.”
Ellis says he’s experienced a few bad days lately.
“Over the weekend, I was bedridden for 16 hours a day and my headaches felt like a grenade was about to explode. I was in so much pain and ready to give in but then my doctor put me on morphine and the headaches have disappeared. Now I am in lala land (dizzy and lightheaded) but I won't let that slow me down either. I get my wife to drive me for all my volunteering.”
He also has a golden retriever that he says is his “care” dog that has been by his side from the beginning.
“Emma knows when I have good days and helps me through my bad days,” he said.
Donations for Ellis’s ride can be made at www.conquercancer.ca on the 2012 Ontario homepage by typing Paul Ellis after clicking on donate.