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“Let’s go hunting.” It was as simple, and complex, as that. My brother, Randy, and I had been chatting on the phone. I think he knew I was in trouble. Of course, he knew that I had received my diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer. He also knew that the prognosis was bleak. And, I think he knew that I was despairing of not living out my so-called ‘allotted time’ – not walking my daughter down the aisle, not ever seeing my grand-kids, not celebrating my 50th wedding anniversary. The list went on.

Honestly, I wasn’t despairing about not seeing another hunting trip. But, Randy’s statement sent a slight thrill through the body that had been cut open twice and, most recently, poisoned with drugs designed to kill the mutated cells. He was suggesting a trip to the Western US, a region we both loved. I thought for just a moment and then asked, “What about going to Africa?”

Though my brother had been on a Safari, I had never seen the continent where many hunters are said to find their dreams fulfilled. It took only the briefest discussion for us to decide to investigate whether a Safari was possible – financially for both of us, physically for me.

I first went to Frances my, [very] long-suffering, wife of 40 years. We discussed the financial cost, and then we discussed the big question – would I be able to handle the physical side of the Safari.

This latter issue might seem like an odd concern for those of you who know that Frances and I had just spent 10 days in the Himalayas, trekking all the way up to ~16,000 feet in elevation. Also, just prior to my diagnosis, I had been a runner for 20+ years. So, why the discussion about being physically able to hunt?

The answer was that the treatment for my particular cancer had knocked out most of my endocrine system. This left me without the capability of producing the molecules needed to keep living, especially when in the midst of physically-demanding activities. But, there were medications that could help.

Shortly thereafter, Frances and my children used the Arnold penchant for sarcasm-in-love and indicated their vote for the Safari with this shirt:

Marching Orders from MY Family

So, Randy and I planned our trip, with my brother making the suggestion that we hunt with Blaauwkrantz Safaris out of Port Elizabeth, SA.

In the midst of the planning, I realized that I needed to let the folks at Blaauwkrantz know about my situation. I was a bit concerned that they might not be very excited about my particular malady, especially given that my prime species would be the Vaal Rhebok, an animal found only in mountainous regions.

My concerned message was met with “Mike, we will take very good care of you.”

Remembering my sarcastic bent, you will understand that I interpreted this to mean that they would send me out with a PH capable of carting my carcass out of the mountains when I fell off my perch.

That latter inference was accurate in that my PH, Arnold Claassen, was a former Rugby player. And, since he was capable of carrying whole Impala down hills, he could have easily handled my limp body.

1a) Loading up the PH

Fortunately, Arnold never had to test his human-body-carting capabilities on our Safari. Though, early in our Safari, as I struggled up the slope to find the Vaal Rhebok, he noted my gasping and asked if I wanted him to carry my rifle. I stopped, popped another Hydrocortisone tablet, and demurred.

We found our trophy, and Arnold didn’t need to roll me down from the top of the mountain.

5) Happy PH

You may be asking what the point of this post might be? Here it is. If you are facing a diagnosis that is dire, and you are a passionate hunter, consider going hunting.

No, I don’t believe hunting saved my life, thus far giving me almost three years of clear scans. I believe that is attributable to God and modern medical treatments.

However, my wife and children’s love, my brother’s love, and the care of Arnold Claassen and all those at Blaauwkrantz provided this cancer-challenged man with an adventure that lifted his spirits in a way that no other experience likely would have. The memory of that one adventure has continued to buoy my desire to fight this disease.

By the way, Randy and I head back to Africa in 2020 to share another Safari, this time in Mozambique – and Frances is going along for her first taste of Africa.

I intend to keep kicking cancer’s ass.

1) On the Lookout

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  1. Some people charge hundreds of dollars an hour for what a few hours in the woods does for most people. A church, a therapist, a healer, whatever you want to call it.

    • being alone with your thoughts in a quiet, tranquil setting…just remember to turn off your phone!….

    • Stage four cancer, screw it. Its time to take a fukitol pill, snort blow off a hookers ass, woof down 15+ grams of mushrooms, as many hits of LSD as are available, and top it off with a phat blunt. Let your perception of reality be utterly obliterated and dissolved around you, become a carpet toy and blast off!

      It also probably costs way less than a hunting trip to Africa. If someone still opts for the hunting trip, I would say get vaccinated for rabies (one of the few that actually work) but then there is still that stage 4 thing.

      To each their own.

    • Every hunt is successful, even if I don’t get a shot. I’m out there. In what was meant to be a cathedral, church, meditation center. If I’m lucky they will find me dead under a tree.

      Not in some sterile white room hooked to machines. That is not the way we were meant to go.

      • You said something I actually agree with O_o what ever you are smoking, I want some.

        I had intended to go out a similar way, dead hiking through the mountains in the US or Norway, probably so far off grid that no one would find me.

  2. Tom in Oregon – If you’re reading this, how is the area he hunted different from where you hunted?

    Mike – Keep right on kicking “C” square in the teeth…

    • 90% of my hunting was in the flat bush areas. We went into the mountains when looking for baboons and Kilpspringer.
      Mike was in a pretty mountainous area. That’s some hard hiking!

  3. Never, never give up!

    So far, I have had chemo 16 times to try to slow
    down my Stage 4 prostate cancer, which has moved to my bones. I am back in for treatment in 4 days.

    Never give up! Never give in!

  4. Good stuff Mike. Keep up the good fight!

    You’re going to love Mozambique!
    The area I went to was like going back in time 150 years.
    Consider using your PH’s rifle. Last time I went, the permit for bringing your own was a grand. (Or more. I can’t remember)

  5. What a wonderful, fabulous article. Thank you for sharing, I hope for the author’s continued health and happiness. Joy and love to all of you reading as well.

  6. The healing power of hunting, not so much for the deer with an arrow sticking in its guts

  7. Good luck to you in that battle. Hunting ain’t just about the kill. It’s so much more and your better off for knowing it.

    • I posit that the hunting experience is different for different people. For my father (and grandfather before him even more) it sure seems to be about the kill. He appears to get a rush at that moment and is highly dissatisfied if he doesn’t get one. Where as I don’t even squeeze the trigger, I just get the sight picture and say “and that’s all she wrote” and feel very little frustration if I don’t get that. I am not saying my way is better, just different. If I needed the food more I’d sure as shit squeeze the trigger. Maybe I am just lazy – who knows.

  8. Well done.

    Every single thing you do n experience after yr life’s in play is a gift. Also yr. choice: a gift u gave yrself (& the people around you, one hopes.) And now yr an example. This is how a real human lives.

    Ya get to learn that when yr life’s in play; u know it; n what happens next is in part up to u. I curse the lesson, but bless the knowledge.

    It is a privelege to have met u, a little.

  9. Thank you to all for your kind comments and reflections.

    I told our editor that this article sat in the ‘unfinished’ folder for 18 months. I probably should have shared it sooner, but it was a bit too raw.

    Thanks again, and for those of you also wrestling with cancer, or any other serious illness, I am truly sorry that you are going through this trial, but keep moving forward.

  10. my husband is dying from asbestos related disease. he would love to do this, but he wants to get a cape buffalo. he has 4-6 months left. but no way could we afford any of that as i am on ss and just no funds there for something like that.

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