Monday, December 17, 2012

a tale told by an ornament ...

For obvious reasons it seemed pragmatic to encourage our daughter and my wife to decorate the Christmas Tree this year. Statistically speaking it could be their future tradition.  

Helping Patti who is non-ambulatory and legally blind from Multiple Sclerosis is really about decorating the tree oneself and trying to find ways to keep Patti involved and engaged.

When they got to Patti’s “Christmas at Penn State” ornament featurning Joe Paterno (Patti is a Penn State alumni) …

- “Why do we have an ornament of a pedophile?” from a ‘20 something’ with no Penn State allegiance.

- “That’s Joe Paterno he’s no pedophile he’s the Nittany Lions football coach” from Patti. (Patti’s MS dementia symptoms prevent retention of any recent memory – for example she does not even remember I have lung cancer)

My God, I think to myself, I’m going to have to live forever just to explain the ornaments. A year ago as I helped Patti by hanging this same damn ornament I did not know a 8 mm spiculated nodule was living in my left upper lobe.

So I weigh in to offer a new piece of family Christmas lore. “Speaking of Joe Paterno …” believe it or not, he even played a role in my lung cancer diagnosis.

Beginning on Dec 23 last year not only was I keeping my scans and appointments secret but my only question was “how long do I have to live?”

Looking through my PET scan in January 2012 my then pulmonologist points out to me that today lung cancer is treatable unlike the past.

Seeing the suspicion in my eyes, he pulls Joe Paterno out of the news as an example of an 85 yr old man under unimaginable stress while being successfully treated for lung cancer.  

Two days later Joe Paterno died from lung cancer. You can imagine how encouraged I felt.

Later that night watering the tree stand supervised by our cat an ornament fell from the tree landing between Stardust and me. Yep, believe it or not, there laid JoePA as Stardust looked at me with a telepathic “see I told you so, they fall from the tree all by themselves.”

Patrick Leer
Caregivingly Yours, MS Caregiver @


  1. LOL; I'm thinking maybe you'll have to sort through the ornaments and remove the ones down the road that could potentially be interesting to explain :)


  2. Your dark humor cracks me up Patrick!