Health Update

Hi everyone,

My friends convinced me that creating a blog is the best way to keep interested people updated about my current health situation so here we go.  I have never done this before so bear with me.

Current Health Situation:   I was not feeling great most of the summer but chalked it up to being overweight and rundown from a difficult but interesting year of changes at IBR and for me and my friends.  Anyway, there were some signs of problems in August but around Sept. 1st I found that I was having trouble breathing one morning so I went to the emergency room.  Long story short, they took a large amount of fluid out of my left lung and plural cavity.  They sent me home saying I had phenomia and pleurisy. The next morning I found that my breathing was even worse.  I went back to the emergency room and was admitted to the hospital.

All the tests revealed no infection and most of my organs were functioning perfectly.  However, my heart was enlarged and that was what kept me in the hospital in ICU.  I  was soon diagnosed with aortic valve stenosis – slow deterioration of the aortic valve.  Over the next few months and many tests later I learned that I will have to have a valve replacement but that was put on hold due to another problem.

My real complaint was that I had a chronic dry cough and the feeling that I was coming down with something all the time.  All the time!  My body continued to ache daily as if I were getting sick and I continue to take pain medication for it.  No one could figure out what the problem was and I went from doctor to doctor about it.  I kept saying that my lungs felt like they were trying to expel something but to this day very little has come up.  It’s a dry and painful cough.

So, fast forward to Christmas.  By now I am having some trouble breathing and getting winded easily.  I noticed that I was becoming more weak and still no diagnosis.  I lost about 35 lbs by Christmas which actually helped since I wasn’t carrying around all that extra weight.  But, my best friend, Mark, insisted that I stay in San Francisco and go to UCSF Medical Center – one of the best hospitals in the world – because I could barely walk through the airport due to weakness and shortness of breath.

There have been lots of tests and maneuvering through the hospital system over the last month.  Fluid from my plural cavity area ruled out everything from fungal growth to bird diseases but confirmed that I have kidney cancer that has now metastasized to my lungs.  Not what I expected to say the least.  I am now meeting with an oncologist to find out what treatment options are available.  This is frustrating to say the least but I am glad that at least I know what it is so I can plan accordingly.

I am aware that I sound very casual about this.  It’s just because I have been dealing with this for so long and because I have become comfortable with death and all that surrounds it . Nothing is a shock to me at this point.  I want you all to know that I am in a pretty good emotional and mental place and am taking this a day at a time.  I am in the best location that I can be with Mark, Russ and especially my God Daughter, Elizabeth, and  2 dogs that are full time companions.   My family is fairly close by so if I need them they are available.

I know there is a lot of concern about me and I really appreciate it.  I hope this blog will help facilitate communication between us.

So, as of today, January 20th, 2014 I am in good place in my head and grateful for the people who love me.  The pain is manageable at this point and later this week I should have an idea of how I will proceed.

Much love, Jay

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25 thoughts on “Health Update

  1. Hi Jay, thank you so much for sharing with us like this. I for one had absolutely no idea you were not feeling well. You have been unwell for quite some time now. I absolutely agree with your beliefs in your section ‘what I have learned about death’, we are spiritual beings on a journey and death is only a transition. You are in the best place surrounded by people who love you near and far and this is a wonderful way for us all to stay close to you at this time. You are a wonderful guy and I liked you the moment I met you. Sending you love and strength and of course a big hug! xxx Lindy far away in Africa

  2. Hi Jay,
    We am glad to learn directly from you about all of this. It is difficult for us to see such a strong person in so many ways… be set back like this. After my Dad passes, I took care of my Mom for nine years with dementia…and COPD (from secondary smoke) plus a second heart valve operation. I have always been very concerned about the toxic fumes that are so much a part of this oil spill work that you and others have been around for decades. For several years now…I have been on Advir, a breathing med, since I came to Sonoma…so I know how breathing plays out.

    I always felt bad for not jumping in to clean birds but knew it would make breathing issues even worse. I believe the chemicals here in Sonoma… sprayed on grapes…has serious implications for breathing. It is not the same when I go outside this area.

    Glad you are seeking the best of care… the weight loss will help as will taking it easy…. No one promised any of us tomorrow…but you have always been on top of your game at every turn in the road. That will make an appreciable difference for your healing. (It certainly has for thousands of birds that have been in your care).

    Next time your in town we hope to touch base again. IBR still rocks and it is because of the foundation that you skillfully built over the many years. Sustainability and a good team is the key and those element are in place.

    Happy New Year & God Bless.
    Tom & Darren

  3. Thank you Jay for sharing with us in such a pragmatic and practical way and for showing the usual courage and forthrightness that we have all come to love and know. Warmest thoughts and biggest hugs; with you in thought and spirit. Karen xxx

  4. Jay: I am grateful for your sharing with us how you are. I have been following IBBRC for many years and the memories of working with you and Mark are very close to my heart. I was disturbed at the photo at Christmas with you and Mark but didn’t know how to ask about how you were. I am happy that you finally got a diagnosis and are getting the proper care but sad about what you are going through. I share your views on death and the hereafter and know there is a special place for people like you in the afterlife. I lost my daughter a year ago last September and have undergone a great change since. We never know what tomorrow may bring but you are in my daily thoughts and prayers and just know that you have my love and most positive thoughts. I am always here if you ever need or want to call. Love, Joan
    ( I hope I sent this right as I am not that proficient when it comes to writing on here.)

  5. Jay…

    I am stunned and so deeply saddened by this news. I can’t seem to stop the tears. And I’m trying to not be angry about this happening to someone who has given so much of himself, and to someone who has been such an amazing angel and beacon of hope for the animals. I have always had tremendous admiration and respect for you – but I don’t think I realized just how much I truly love you until this very moment. I will always consider it one of the greatest honors of my life to have worked alongside you. I am so sorry that you are going through this, but trust that the love you are receiving from Mark and his family, and from your wonderful circle of family and friends will sustain you and bring you peace as you face this challenge. Sending healing thoughts your way…

    With much love,
    Dyan

  6. Hey Jay – This blog is a great idea. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. You mean a great deal to sooooo many people – around the world! A pioneer of wildlife rehabilitation – one of the original founders of IWRC, you remain a leader in the field. This is a great way for those who care about you, love, and respect you, to share their feelings and stay connected. Huge bear hug from your biggest fan!

  7. Jay: I too am glad you shared this with us all. It is so easy for evens to change as they go around. For the 30 or so years that I have have know you what I always admired has been your truthfulness. We have shared many ideas and thoughts over those years. I too understand that our bodies are just a vessal for our spirit. We all know that this is a uncertain time right now, but know that you have many spirits out here giving you support.

    I am so glad you have Mark, Russ and Elizabeth to keep you happy and focusing on the next step of your journey.

    Guess it was the universe listening last night, as since I hadn’t heard from you in a few weeks I sent you an email to see how things are going and within a few minutes your email popped up.

    So, Loves and Hugs my friend.

  8. Dearest Jay – thank you for sharing this with us, and allowing us into your world. I am astounded that with the medical world today it took so long to diagnose (but that is just my own thing)! You are carried in so many hearts and minds for the wonderful person we all love so dearly. Please keep us posted and know that you are greatly loved!

  9. Jay,

    I had just watched a wildlife programme, and had been telling my husband and father in law about IBRRC, and specifically you, when I saw this .

    I have always admired your skills in animals, logistics and people (mostly in the face of) adversity and also your ‘fatherlyness’ towards me when I worked with you on the Treasure. I am sure that this stands you in great stead to face this challenge with courage, practicality and humour.

    You mean a lot to many people, all over the world and I am so glad that you have your family and Mark’s for support.

    Sending you much love and hugs, and praying for you.

    Sharon and my little clan xxxxxx

  10. I am glad you are doing this blog too Jay, it helps keep everyone informed and a place to connect with each other for support as well. Love all you guys sooooo much, and appreciate all the love you have for our friend. We are honored to have Jay here with us. Elizabeth is probably his staunchest supporter well her and little mudgie budgie Louis! Thanks Rebecca for the blog idea!

  11. Dearest Jay,
    I am at a loss for words. You are an amazing person and have given so much to so many people and animals. You are a beautiful person and I am so fortunate to know you and have worked with you. Your compassion for animals and people has amazed and inspired me to do better. I send much love and peace to you. Love and Namaste Lauren

  12. Dear Jay
    I am so sorry to hear the news. But if there is anyone that has the spirit and will to conquer this, I do believe it is you. You have always been, and are and always will be a very special being. I have always thought that we are spiritual beings going thru a temporary human experience. May you be given the gift of having much more of that human experience ahead of you. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
    Linda Wolf

  13. Oh Jay, I can hardly see to write this through my tears… I’m devastated that you are having to deal with this dreadful diagnosis – its just so unfair! I am flooded by memories of the many wonderful years we worked together, fighting to protect and save animals and to get people to do the right thing! You’ve enriched my life enormously and I am so grateful for all you taught me about life and love. Sending you lots of love, strength and courage for the days, weeks and mouths ahead on the road to recovery. All my love xx

  14. Jay,
    Thank you for this candid update. Barbara told me you had been feeling unwell, but I didn’t know the extent of it. Know that you now have many people in Alaska sending you positive, healing vibes as you continue through this process.
    All the best,
    Heather

  15. Hi Jay,
    as for all people, the news came here as a shock. I am glad to see that you haven`t lost your smile and optimism. Thank you for sharing some difficult moments with us.
    I hope you can keep the pain under control, so that your spirit finds the energy to fight for the best.
    All the best,

    Claude from Belgium

  16. Hi Jay,
    Thank you for sharing and keeping us updated. Since I have known you I have never seen you give up without a fight…or easily back down, so I am confident you will find the healing energy you need for this battle. My thoughts and prayers are with you and I will continue to send you positive energy. I think it is save to say the flock is pulling for you!

    Hugs!!!
    Danene Birtell

  17. Jay, I am so honored to be able to work for and with you. Thank you for the opportunity to work with these amazing animals and for sharing your passion, humor, knowledge, hard truths, forgiveness and grace. You have touched the lives of so many people and animals and made the world a better place, and I am forever grateful. My thoughts and energy are with you and yours, and if there is anything that I can do to return or repay the trust and respect you have shared, I will try to move heaven and earth to get it done 🙂

  18. Hi Jay, I always had a great respect for you and feel fortunate to have a chance to work with you at IBR. You are a wonderful person. Sorry for not checking with you sooner. Just got the new today and read your blog. Thanks for sharing. You are a strong man with heart for everyone you associate with. I have always been impressed with your love and energy for animals and contribution to International Bird Rescue. I am glad that you have your love ones taking good care of you. You are in my prayers. Thank you again for all your support, understanding and trust you had on me.

    Take Care. Lots of love and hugs.

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