‘Allan – the Bear Pond Boss’
March is ‘Kidney Month’ and Thursday, Mar. 12 was ‘World Kidney Day’.
When kidneys do not function properly, because they are damaged, diseased or removed, dialysis must be performed artificially through renal dialysis. Without this artificial kidney dialysis, toxic wastes build up in the blood and tissues and cannot be filtered out by the diseased kidneys.
Eventually this build up of wastes, if not removed, will lead to death.
A patient must enter an institution, three days weekly, to be checked out by a nurse, propping up his/her arm up, and allowing the nurse to slip two needles into the blood vessels.
These needles – one to capture the blood and one to return it – are attached to plastic tubes, leading to a nearby dialysis machine.
For the next four hours, the patient reads or watches television/movies to relax, until the artificial kidney dialysis machine removes all the waste from the blood.
This whole ordeal is traumatic on any individual, devastating to most, but for Allan ‘Bear Pond Boss’ Hancock, it’s just “A bump in the road.”
Allan, 59, is originally from the Outer Battery in St. John’s. He was the yard boss for Oceanex on the St. John’s waterfront.
He has become an inspiration for all who know him.
CABIN IS MY LIFE
I first met this gentleman while on a moose hunting trip in the Red Indian Lake area in Millertown area, approximately 10-12 years ago. He was standing on the deck of his cabin, near Bear Pond, surrounded by friends and nature.
Shortly after meeting him, he stated, “The cabin is my life.”
At that time, I had no idea of his personality, his strengths or his medical condition (past and present).
Since then though, I have learned Allan had skin cancer diagnosed in 1990 and required several grafting; in 1994 he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and needed partial removal of the large bowel. Ten months later, the cancer returned and the remainder of his large bowel was removed.
For a man who was rarely sick and hardly visited a doctor prior to his cancer, this really shook him. He questioned whether or not he could continue work and continue to enjoy the outdoors.
After surgery and convalescing, he was back to work at the waterfront and up to Millertown with the boys, enjoying himself once again.
Since 2002, Allan has encountered several bouts of skin cancer in his facial area – cheek, neck and back – and his inner ear requiring 13 treatments of radiation.
Allan refused to allow this to slow him down.
However, the biggest blow came in September 2003, when the cancer returned into his ureter, and six months later, it had spread to his right kidney. His left kidney was only five per cent functioning; as a result, the only alternative was dialysis.
He thought this was the end of his trips to Millertown. How could he continue moose hunting, rabbit snaring or snowmobiling when he had to be tied to a machine four hours a day, three times a week?
To everyone’s amazement and excitement, once Allan started feeling better, he was on the phone, making arrangements for dialysis in Grand Falls and planning trips around his appointments.
OVER 30 YEARS UP AT THE CABIN
Allan’s love for Millertown goes back to 1977, when he made his first trip with his working buddy, Ches Sweetapple. They both worked as stevedores on the St. John’s Waterfront.
Allan and Ches, in their spare time would steam out towards Cape Spear, in an 18-foot speedboat, to catch fish, fillet, or sometimes split and dry it.
In 1980 Allan, Ches and another work buddy, Allan Myers, along with a friend from Upper Outer Battery, Don Edgecombe, decided to build another cabin. The wood to build this cabin was acquired from ‘offshore boxes’.
This cabin would be their home from 1980-2000. Then it was decided to build a newer and larger cabin. Allan, his son Dave and his friend Don Edgecombe became the owners of a new 24 by 32 cabin with a deck overlooking Bear Pond.
This would be Allan Hancock’s home during his future excursions to Millertown.
Allan has to arrange all his trips to Millertown or his sightseeing tours around Newfoundland with his wife, Anne, based on the availability of kidney dialysis.
In the summer Allan, Ann and family visited Millertown to fish and relax. Of course, each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, there was a two-hour trip by truck to Grand Falls for dialysis.
In the fall, it’s berry picking, rabbit hunting and moose hunting. But, Allan’s visits to the hospital had to continue.
The winter months posed more challenges, but it does not slow him down. It’s ice fishing, woodcutting, snowmobiling and rabbit hunting this time.
Allan has to be aware of the upcoming weather conditions. A typical winter trip to Grand Falls involves a 45-kilometre snowmobile trip to his truck, and more than an hour’s drive by truck to Grand Falls.
Allan at this time, would pick up favours for his cabin friends, treats for the nursing staff and prepare himself for a four-hour dialysis.
Very tired after the dialysis, he would repeat the driving process to his cabin.
Anne’s only requested one thing from his friends.
“Someone accompany him to and from his dialysis!”
Allan reluctantly abided by this request, but only because of his wife’s wishes.
One of Allan’s doctors once said, “Allan, you’re like a Timex watch; you keep on ticking!”
FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Sitting quietly with Allan, he speaks softly about his family – his two sons, daughter and wife. He brightens up when he talks about his four grandchildren, ranging from ages 3-12 years.
Allan talks about the family gathering at his cabin at Bear Pond.
“The two older boys, 7 and 12, love this country. I taught them everything about the outdoors.”
He talks about bringing his oldest grandson to Millertown at New Year’s and teaching him to set snares.
“I taught him all my outdoor skills.”
Allan’s only sibling, a sister – Evelyn, and her husband Brett also love to visit the cabin, especially in the winter months.
This Christmas, Allan plans on bringing the entire family to Millertown for Christmas and New Year’s.
He enjoys his rabbit hunting trips in early January with his buddy, Ches, and his Ice Fishing trip in late February, with other cabin owners.
Allan was one of the organizers of the annual ‘ Ice Fishing Derby’. The proceeds for the past two years, nearly $1,000 has been forwarded to the Dialysis Units – the first year to the Eastern Health Foundation and this year to the Central Health Foundation.
Allan was gracious when it was decided the fundraisers would be in his honour.
The Hancocks wanted to thank the ‘wonderful nurses’on the dialysis units in Grand Falls-Windsor, Gander, Corner Brook, Waterford Hospital and Health Science Centre in St. John’s where Allan has been treated.
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to past. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.
This could be said about Allan in all his endeavors. Allan’s magnetic, quiet personality draws cabin owners from around the area to his presence.
Musicians – Gary and daughter Amy; Ralph and wife Carol; Chris and wife Jody – provide continuous entertainment for all those who gather at one cabin or another. The ‘Boss’ sits quietly, tapping his feet, delighted with his company and their enthusiasm, but ever aware of his limited intake of food and beverage.
He sits back and e n j oys immensely. He’s currently planning for the next gathering of friends, trusting that all remains well until they meet again.
Summing up Allan’s personality … “You can complain because Roses have Thorns, or you can rejoice because Thorns have Roses.”
Allan is an inspiration to all who know him.
His sister, Evelyn, once said, “Allan’s determination, to keep going despite all life altering obstacles, has shocked and amazed all those who know him.”
Ralphie, a Millertown cabin owner said, “Allan once told me that he had a choice to make. ‘Give up and live next to a dialysis machine or get busy and get the most out of life.’”
Things, indeed, turn out best for people like Allan who makes the best out of the way things turned out.
His struggles with cancer, and now his kidney problems, have only enhanced his desire to live life to the fullest.
Allan ‘Bear Pond Boss’ Hancock.
This is the annual Ice Fishing Derby in Millertown in early March with several people from approximately 6-8 towns, including Marystown. Almost $500 will be donated this year to the dialysis unit in Grand Falls. All participants have cabins or are...
Gerald Walsh, from Little Bay-Marystown, was visiting his son’s in-law cabin and won the top prize for the most and the largest fish caught. The ‘Pond Prize’ – donated by Walter Cluett, a Marystown businessman – was a snowmobile helmet won after a draw...