The day I was to leave for Alaska to tape the last episode of the season for my show, The Best and Worst of Tred Barta on Versus, I woke up with a gimpy left leg. My toes had no power, and I could lift my leg only halfway up. I went to my doctor who immediately ordered an MRI.
Shortly thereafter, my problem worsened, prompting me to drive straight to the emergency room.
Approximately six hours later, I lay on a gurney, paralyzed from the waist down.
Since then, I’ve been in three hospitals; all the doctors initially misdiagnosed this as a spinal stroke. Thankfully, I actually have an extremely weird (but treatable) blood disease called Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia, a rare (notice I still don’t do anything normal) form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma that causes the blood to thicken. Medical oddsmakers rate regaining use of my legs at about 20 to 30 percent. Thank God I still have great upper-body strength, will still shoot my bows, do battle with offshore game fish and should even be able to ride horses again. But make no mistake: I have blood cancer. And I am crippled.
I ask for no sympathy, but I beg you to listen to what this adventure has taught me in life.
During this crisis I found myself in the darkest hole imaginable–an abyss of self-pity. Quite frankly, in all my travels, this is the worst place I’ve ever been. But I swear to you that I am pulling myself out of this hellhole because of my core philosophy–the same philosophy that drives my TV show, the Barta Blue Marlin Classic and the Barta Boys & Girls Club Billfish Tournament.
Without my faith in God, the relentless support of my wife, Anni, and the kindness of hundreds of thousands of e-mails from my friends and detractors, I never would have made it this far.
Throughout my life I’ve tried to help other people. It was easy. I was healthy and it seemed the right thing to do. Now, do many doctors, nurses, physical therapists and friends are helping me. I know for the first time in my life what it means to receive such kindness and it’s overwhelming.
So my message is simply this: Unless you’re in a crisis, you may never know what it feels like to receive help. The Bible says it’s better to give than to receive. But for someone to be blessed by giving, someone else must receive, and it is just as important to receive graciously and appreciatively as it is to give!
So enjoy the porch of life. Spend that extra time with your son or daughter. Never miss an opportunity to cherish your marriage or pass up an opportunity on the dock to teach someone how to rig a ballyhoo or to take time sit with an old man fishing from a pier. You may never know the impact it has.
I do now.
My life will continue. I may walk again, maybe not. Either way, I can’t wait to inspire others on TV and here in Sport Fishing. Life is about doing your best with what you have, never giving up, honor, faith and love of family and friends. There’s nothing more. It’s not about money or how big your boat is or how many world records you have.
Slow down and smell the flowers: If it can happen to me, it can happen to you.
Anni and I thank you for your support. It gives us strength.
Till next tide,
Capt. Tred Barta
Editor’s Note: To help Tred weather the physical and financial storm that has stuck him and his family, five benefit fund-raising auction dinners are scheduled from Rhode Island to South Florida on October 23, 2009 at 7 p.m. Dinners will be held at:
• The Village Inn, 1 Beach St., Narragansett, Rhode Island–Affair Director: Capt. Matt Barashyan; 917-903-8116
• Oakland’s Restaurant, 365 Dunne Rd., Hampton Bay, N.Y. at Shinnecock Inlet–Affair Director: Capt. Anthony Prudenti; 516-810-5812
• Doolan’s Restaurant, 700 Rt. 71, Spring Lake Heights, N.J.–Affair Director: Capt. Len Belcaro 800-827-4468
• Sanitary Fish Market and Restaurant, 501 Evans St. Morehead City, N.C. –Affair Director: Capt. Peter Manuel; 919-815-2560.
• I.G.F.A. Banquet Hall, 300 Gulf Stream Way, Dania Beach, Florida. — Affair Director: Lee Green; 800-251-8263