Thriller Writer Tj O'Connor

The Pappa Files: Fighting the Good Fight

Apr 9, 2024

Tj O'Connor

I am Pappa. There are many pappas. But I am unique. Trust me. I am an anti-terrorism consultant by profession, and an author of mysteries and thrillers by devotion. A Harley Davidson pilot, man about dogs (and now cats), and an adventurer. I am a father to five and Pappa to eight and counting.
These are my stories…

Pappa Log: April 2024. Somewhere in Winchester, Virginia.

WARNING-What follows is not my normal, light-hearted post. For those of you checking in for my latest self-deprecating adventure, give me a week or so. I’ll return your computer/cell phone screen back to you with mirth, mystery, and mayhem. For now, this is personal. Pain and fear always are.

I am a man among dogs—and now cats, too, I guess. I have been my entire life. Since, as an author and consultant, I live and work solo most of the time, these beasts are my companions. Sure, sure, there are the weekend family gatherings where I chef up some vittles and play with the grands. But normally, my day is 12-14 hours working alone in my den or travelling alone to seek fans and fortune. In that order. My closest companions are my dogs (and yeah, yeah, now cats). I repay their love and affection with equal, kindness, safety, and good care.

That is far too often simply not enough.

Since remarrying, I’ve had nearly a dozen animals—Dakota, Mosby, Belle, Maggie Mae, Duke (my daughters but he adopted me!), Toby, Annie-Rose, Sawyer, and cats Penny, Tucker, and Angel. All my dogs had major health issues. Four battled cancers. All but two of those survived and old age took them.

But there were those two. And now, perhaps three.

Flippin’ cancer. The scourge of the world. The disease that despite achievements in science, fights back with gusto.

In my years, I’ve battled my share of threats—murderers, terrorists, thieves of all manner, lawyers, and the IRS (shush, I’m telling a story here). Even my own demons and health crises I am good at battle. I focus my mind and the few talents I have and fight with everything I have. I win far more often than I lose. Fear is something that drives me. It never defeats me.

Except with cancer. Fighting it is exhausting. Painful. Demoralizing.

Winning against it is out of my hands—my weapons and guile are not something that has much success against disease. The best I can do is write checks to doctors who do their best. I can just fight and hope and pay. After all, it’s just money. (Yikes!)

Last week, our seven-year-old Yellow Lab, Annie-Rose, was diagnosed with a serious cancer. One week later—surgery.

Now we wait.

It’ll be another week or more before the pathology tells us Annie-Rose’s fate. Will it be years or months?

F—ing cancer.

Bring it on—I’ll fight the good fight. I am fortunate to have the ability to engage the doctors, the testing, and the meds she’ll need either way. It breaks my heart to know there are so many who would not be able to fight the good fight to save their companions. I have in the past, aided several where I could. Once again, like the many before her, it’s close to home.

I’m in the hands of an amazing vet and her team, a wonderful surgeon who might well have saved Annie-Rose’s life already. And my anger and drive to fight this good fight head-on.

What pushes me on is the history of my animals. Each time one of my Labs was diagnosed with critical illness, I was told they had months to live. Nope. Unacceptable… beat the war drums! With a few exceptions, they all lived long, happy lives.

Those odds—fight the fight and hope to add a year or more—are in my favor. Annie-Rose is strong and robust. The docs are the best. Now, it’s just time and luck.

There. I’ve exhausted my demons on this blog. Next week, I’ll be back to my normal, outrageous, and adventurous weird self. I promise.

Pappa’s Log—Epilog:

While I’m still unsure about the pathology, Annie-Rose astounds me. I sleep in my den because she shouldn’t climb stairs. Every night, it’s up every hour to water my backyard because of the meds. After just two days, she sneaks out of my den (she’s learned to open my French Doors) to climb on the comfy couch instead of her dog bed, sneaks into the pantry and helps herself to some dog food, and then sneaks back before I awaken. Silly dog. I have CCTV security cameras inside my house. Her misdeeds are recorded. She’s caught. I just don’t tell her. This damn cancer has a bigger foe than just me… Annie-Rose Warrior Doggie!

Pappa’s Log—PS:

It’s day four. Annie-Rose woke me at 4:am by dropping her red ball on my head. “Time to play ball, daddy…” Nope. Cancer has no chance this time!


I first fell in love with writing while in grade school and over the years continued to dabble with characters and stories whenever life allowed. Lately, I've focused my energy on pursuing this dream—interrupted only by life as a security consultant and the demands of two Labrador retrievers.

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