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FEATURES | paul ott carruth

C OLOR H IM pink

P AUL O TT uses his voice to educate men about

t
breast cancer
TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY TRUDY W. BERGER
FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF CARLA CARRUTH TIGNER
To some people in the multi-billion dollar tourism industry, he is known
as the “Voice of the South.” Still others in his five-state audience think of
him as the “Eagle,” from the title of his weekly radio and television show
“Listen to the Eagle.” But to fellow cancer survivors Paul Ott is a kindred
spirit and a beacon of hope in an often disconsolate and disheartening land-
scape of doctors and medical procedures.
Paul Ott Carruth’s journey began 76 years ago not many yards away from
the room in which he sits and reminisces this beautiful wintry afternoon on
Lake Dixie Springs, where Paul shares a lovely wooded lake home with his

16 a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i
wife, Linda. His first wife, Alberta, mother of three literally died from lack of blood supply. Paul
of his children, died of ovarian cancer at the young believes that the tumor died because the Lord
age of 44, after a two-year struggle with the dis- killed the blood supply. He does not require
ease. Paul’s daughter Carla Carruth Tigner, co-host lengthy medical explanations for what he considers
of his weekly program, shocked him with the news to be the Lord’s work.
that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer at The big “C” shakes people and changes people –
the age of 42 – the same age that her mother had Paul’s “C” began when he was in the third grade
been diagnosed with cancer. Two years later, in and became a Christian, joining First Baptist
Church in Summit. He graduated from high school
in Summit and from Southwest Mississippi
Community College before going on to obtain his
teaching degree at the University of Southern
Mississippi. He taught physical education in the
Hattiesburg schools and worked at the YMCA for
several years before returning to Pike County with
his young family. His passion for the outdoors and
wildlife conservation - often expressed in songs -
were kindled while living in Hattiesburg and there
is literally no recognition or award in that area
which has escaped him.
Paul’s calendar is filled with speaking engage-
ments and public appearance, church conferences
and rallies. At a time when many people his age are
slowing down, he seems to be hitting his stride. He
and wife Linda are frequently on the road to these
various engagements, and when home, nothing
pleases them more than having a house filled with
2007, Paul discovered a lump in his breast actually any number of their 13 grandchildren ranging in
during a taping of the show. age from two months to 20 years.
Although the outcomes of the father and daugh- “There ought to be a law against a man being
ter cancer stories are similar, the course of their this happy,” Paul says with a broad smile.
treatment varied. Carla’s cancer required a double When asked what he regrets at this stage of his
mastectomy and chemotherapy; in March she will life, Paul answers enthusiastically “I just wish that
mark five years since initial diagnosis. She discov-
ered her lump through self-exam but treatment was
delayed when subsequent mammograms and ultra-
sound failed to confirm the presence of the lump.
Her advice to women and men alike: “Be proactive
and persistent in seeking medical attention; don’t
be put off or intimidated by doctors and don’t stop
until you get the attention you feel you need.”
Paul had a mammogram, was referred immedi-
ately for surgery and had a mastectomy; his cancer
required neither chemotherapy nor radiation.
During an appearance on NBC’s Today Show, his
cancer was described as “necrotic” – the tumor had

Paul’s daughter, Carla Carruth Tigner,


and his step-brothers are a big part
of his support team.
I had used the first 65 years as well
as I have these last 10. Since having
cancer, I am on fire to give my testi-
mony and get the message about the
Lord out to people.”
Paul refers to himself as the poster
child for men with breast cancer but
taken together, he and Carla are truly
the dynamic duo. They served
together as co-chairs for the Susan G.
Komen Breast Cancer Campaign
statewide in Mississippi. So broad is
their appeal that Carla and Paul are
now on the radar screen for an inter-
national breast cancer campaign.
“When I’m gone, I just want peo-
ple to know that I left more behind
than I ever took away from any-
thing,” Paul says. “I think that’s how
the Lord intended for us to live our
lives and I think He left me here and
gave me all this energy for a really
good reason.”
And don’t you doubt for a minute
that Paul Ott would wear pink!

One of Paul’s greatest joys is time


spent with his family. Below are
five of his grandchildren.

LISTEN TO PAUL OTT

“Listen to the Eagle,” Paul Ott’s live


call-in radio show, can be heard at
6 p.m. Mondays on WAKH 105.7 FM
in McComb, KFNV 107.1 FM in
Natchez and WJDR, 98.3 FM in
Prentiss; and WMXI 98.1 FM in
Hattiesburg/Laurel, WXAB 98.9 FM
and WIGG 1240 AM in Wiggins,
WRJW 1320 AM in Picayune, WRBE
106.9 FM in Lucedale and WOSM
103.1 FM on the Gulf Coast.
You can also go to listentotheea-
gle.com. Call 1-800-251-5891 or
#444 on Cellular South.
His TV show airs at 6 a.m. Sundays
on WHLT in Hattiesburg and at 5:30
a.m. Sundays on WJTV in Jackson.