For a man who’d been preparing for his final days, Wheeler is feeling pretty good

HONORED On March 6, the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors voted unanimously to honor George Wheeler for five years of service on the board. From left are directors Mary Burke, John Corbett, Shel Barsanti, Dennis Mayo, former director Wheeler and David Couch. Jack Durham | Union

Poster Child for: Life is what happens to us while we make other plans. Last spring, when I brought the new boat home and filed my intention to serve another four years on the McKinleyville Community Service District (MCSD) board; I had plans.

It was going to be my turn to chair the board this year. We (the board) were busy working on a solar farm for our new sewer plant, offsetting the increased costs of running our plant. We were looking forward to the skating collective bringing a solid proposal to the board for a world class skate park in Pierson Park. We had already signed an agreement to provide the land, if the collective could raise the money to build the park? There were other projects in the pipeline as well.

Personally, I was looking forward to working on the river property on North Bank Road, that would provide families a river/barbecue opportunity, without having to travel to southern Humboldt. There was hope for a possible community forest east of town? And, the skate park, talked about for 30 years and still… not built.

Did I mention the new boat I brought home?

Over last summer the consequences of Agent Orange reared its head once again. I was first diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia in 2000: Stage 4 and chemotherapy at Fort Miley in San Francisco was scheduled. The length of time between diagnosis and treatment offered me an opportunity to try to heal myself. With the aid of a Canadian naturopath, I embarked on an alternative therapy that put me into remission before I could do the chemo and we (family and friends) celebrated.

As the years passed, the cancer would show up and then disappear. The oncologists call it “waxing and waning.” Not even close to describing what it does to family and friends: Now you’re OK. Now you’re not. Now you’re OK. Now you’re not. Each time in the barrel might be the last time?

In 2016, when I discovered an enormous lump under my right arm, we were alarmed but experienced and we began (yes, it’s a we  I have a family and friends who know my struggles). We began a round of chemotherapy that is ongoing today.

Last spring, we were on my third round of trying this and trying that and, although I was holding my own, the fierceness of the drugs was a heavy burden to bear. Nevertheless, we assumed I would win over this awful disease once more and made plans accordingly.

By election time, I was flat on my back at Fort Miley, at the San Francisco VA Medical Center hospital in San Francisco, and the doctors were advising hospice as an option. The drugs were not working, and it was becoming apparent that I might not win this one?

We came home to make plans, where and how and who would care for me in my last days. That was our Thanksgiving. Shortly thereafter, I offered my resignation to the board. 

Then, the downward slide halted, instead of worse every day, I began to hold my own. Hope returned to our lives and the days turned into a week or two and we got our Christmas miracle: That I was alive to celebrate Christmas. not well, but alive.

By New Years, it was apparent we had turned a corner. I could breath again, eat again, the 40 lbs. I had lost began to come back. I could drive my truck and attend doctor’s appointments without a minder. 

Today, I continue to get stronger, although very weak and still doing chemotherapy. My interest in civic affairs is returning, my youngest will be graduating from Mack High and my middle daughter will be getting married this summer. I plan to be there? More like, I hope to be there.

In conclusion, I would like to thank all the folks who voted for me. I did my best to represent you as well as those who did not vote for me. My five years on the board taught me one of the more important lessons of a long life: That politics is not governance. 

How is it that two Republicans, two Democrats and one Green would vote unanimously almost 99 percent of the time on issues that matter to our community? 

That’s a subject for another time.

To all of you, who helped put together the community where I have lived for decades, you gave me the opportunity to return, in a small way, the gifts I have received from you. Thank you.

George Wheeler is former member of the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors. He resigned Dec. 10.


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