Olympics a Celebration for Cancer Survivor
VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The father with his face painted red, white and blue is hoping not to cry.
"I don't want my makeup to run," Patrick Plys says, as the curling competition begins another day at the Olympics.
But what else can a father do, when he tries to talk about how his son has given him everything?
What else, looking back at the best of times and worst of times, a two-year winding road that went from brain tumor surgery to the Winter Olympics?
It is 9 a.m. Thursday and the venue is packed, because this is curling and this is Canada. The United States is playing Denmark, with Chris Plys an alternate on the team. He went on a reality show last year with one purpose; earn expenses so his parents could be in Vancouver.
Mother Laura, father Patrick. Two years ago, Patrick had a five-hour surgery to get at a stage 3 tumor in his brain. Followed by 40 days of radiation and chemotherapy. Followed by 14 more months of chemo. Trial upon trial, ordeal upon ordeal.
Last report had him cancer free. Now he's at the Olympics.
"This is the world to me," he says. "I wear a button and I actually have given a lot of them out. It says, "Miracles happen.'"
He has come this day like every other day, with heart full and face painted. By now, the Olympic Center regulars know him and call out as he walks past.
He is in the first row of section 209, and hopefully there will be no repeat of the unfortunate cowbell business of the day before, when he was ringing the thing so hard, the dinger flew away and nailed a fellow fan.
Patrick Plys is having the time of his life.
"This is a celebration for me," he says. "All that I went through, my eyes focused on one thing: to watch my son in the Olympics."
He had no idea about the reality show until the day the truck pulled up outside the house in Duluth, Minn.
"Chris said, 'The camera crew's here.'
"'The Bank of Hollywood.'
It is a show that lets a family plead its case for money for a cause. Chris was headed for the Olympics. He wanted his parents there, and earned $6,500 for the trip.
"There are things you try to instill in your child," Patrick says, "and then you see them living them out."
The father with the painted face is fighting tears.
Maybe a lighter topic, then. How the Plys family got into curling. It happened 12 years ago, when they tried it on the way to watch a hockey game. Soon, Patrick was not only learning but also teaching, with Chris getting better and better.
"We had a dream about it. Laura and I talked about it. Laura said probably seven years ago, "Someday, our son is going to the Olympics.'"
The father with the painted faced is fighting tears again.
He mentions how blessed he feels by God, his family and friends, the curling community.
"When you get a diagnosis of stage 3 cancer, it's not a good thing," he says. "You can either cower, or you stand up and say, "I'm going to fight.'"
Turns out, there were mighty allies in the fight. A son's love, and the Olympics to see.
As the alternate, Chris is not scheduled to play.
"There's some regret. One of the reasons we came here was to see him on the ice," Patrick says. "But in the bigger picture, there's character being developed in him as he sits and watches."
(More than character: Chris was in the lineup Friday.)
If there is one thing the past two years have shown Patrick Plys, it's the value of the bigger picture, and "being here able to stand on my own two feet."
Game time. The father in the painted face is asked how he is doing.
"I'm great," he says.
No, he's not.
His makeup has run.