In a private conversation last week, someone asked, “What brought you to Gonzales?”
It was easy for me to give the knee-jerk answer, as I was done putting up with Michigan winters. But as we started talking, I realized that there was more to it then that.
Let me start at the beginning. In the Fall of 2013, I had a routine colonoscopy done. Doctors found a tumor. It was rated as Stage 2, so the doctors in Lansing immediately scheduled an operation. They removed seven inches from my colon. The prognosis was good, and all through the winter of 2014 and into the summer I went through chemotherapy. I thought I was over the hump.
I went back to work, and was doing wonderful things with my company at the time, Gannett. I was the regional sales and marketing manager for the state of Michigan, and had such wonderful properties under my domain like the Detroit Free Press, Lansing State Journal, Battle Creek Enquirer, Port Huron Times Herald, Detroit News and the Michigan territory for USA Today. It was fun and challenging work, but things started to change for the worse.
Personally, in the spring of 2015 I found out my cancer had returned—and with a vengeance. I was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastasized cancer. They opened me up in June and sewed me right back up. The tumor was too big to operate. My only hope for survival was more chemo and this time radiation was added to the mix. They would try to shrink the tumor and deal with the cancer in November.
Professionally, the slide of the great daily papers in Michigan was being driven by bad management decisions far away in Virginia. Once proud and honored newspapers were being dismantled faster than they needed to be. All for the sake of Wall Street. I felt like I had lost control of my own destiny, and no longer had the levers of authority needed to institute successful sales and marketing programs.
The summer of 2015 was the worst of my life. I felt horrible, was disgruntled about my job, and thought I was dying. I only had the hope of the surgery in November and prayers to God to keep me going. I made my peace with the Lord.
Then it happened. When I came out of surgery in November 2015 my physician, Dr. Donald Weaver just smiled at me.
“Terry, I’ve been waiting 37 years to tell this to someone, but your cancer appears to be completely gone,” he said. “It’s not in your surrounding tissue, the lymph nodes and there is no mass. It’s a miracle really.
“Figure out what you want to do and go live your life. And please try and make a difference.”
Well, as I contemplated those words, it changed my life. I mended over the winter, decided to whitewater the Grand Canyon last summer for 10 days, and had the experience of a lifetime. But in the privacy of my own mind, I wanted to do more professionally. I wanted to get back to grass roots journalism and make a difference in the right place. And it had to be warm and sunny.
Which brings me to Gonzales. I have always believed a newspaper should be a leader in the community, reflect its values and try to stimulate growth and knowledge in the communities it serves. That is what I am trying to do here. Thanks for letting me enjoy your hospitality in the days I have left on this planet.