Social Awareness Check out our exclusive interview with W. Brett Wilson about his journey while fighting prostate cancer for the second time.
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Mediaplanet: As a well-loved Canadian in the public spotlight, why is it important to speak up about your experiences?
Brett Wilson: I appreciate the thought that I am well loved — and maybe that is why I chose to share my second cancer chapter in terms of my life journey. Initially I only shared this new challenge with close friends and family — but quickly discovered that my “secret” was being shared quite quickly and the message was getting confused a bit. My recurrent cancer was certainly not diagnosed as terminal, but it was indeed both very serious and very treatable. I wanted to both control the message and at the same time encourage and remind men of all ages in Canada to seek out general health check-ups — and in particular, to monitor their PSA levels and to conduct DRE’s.
MP: One in eight men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. What do you think can be done to reduce those numbers?
BW: I genuinely believe that prostate cancer is a great cancer to catch early as there are many treatment options with early diagnosis. The general reluctance of men to have health check-ups has been a historical issue that we are overcoming. And awareness of the importance of the need for knowledge is increasing. I take great exception to the recent recommendations that PSA testing be dispensed with — as I would be lying in a grave or sprinkled in the flowerbed now if I followed that narrow-minded retrogressive thinking. On a side note: I genuinely believe that a move to dramatically reduce sugar in our collective diets would do more to prevent and destroy cancer than any other medical process or procedure. I will be directing more of my time and funds around this opportunity moving forward.
MP: What are some misconceptions that men generally have surrounding prostate cancer?
BW: I think there is a still a misperception that prostate cancer is an older man’s disease; nothing could be further from the truth when statistics are reviewed. The other perception that a PSA of four or more is possibly bad and anything less than four is likely good is simply old school and wrong. A smart doctor monitoring changes in PSA levels (and the rate of change likely being more important than the absolute number) along with DRE’s and general physical assessments can make intelligent decisions with information — but never in the absence of information.
MP: What initially influenced you to consult your doctor?
BW: My PSA was discovered greatly elevated as part of a very routine “executive health check-up” that my key business partners and I had agreed to undertake in the context of being “good partners” back in early 2001. I really had no symptoms (other than a bit of dribbling that I wasn’t wanting to report to anyone — a typical guy reaction I suspect). Since then I have monitored my PSA every three to six months — and earlier this year as my PSA began to climb, I consulted closely with my GP and my urologist. I made the decision to have an extensive PET scan done (using the C11 isotope which globs onto prostate cancer that has metastasized elsewhere in the body — usually first in the lymph nodes and secondarily into the bones — the latter is really not good). My PET scan showed a number of lymph nodes were literally on fire with cancer and the fight was back on. I am now using “tomography” to carefully deliver radiation to the areas of my body now impacted by cancer.
MP: Who are valuable people to seek support from after diagnosis?
BW: Never underestimate the importance of family and friends who have taken the time to understand the care and attention required by someone facing cancer. The offer “I can do anything” does become a bit superficial to the recipient — but remember it is always coming from a place of caring and compassion. (To that end, I encourage well-wishers to truly do something rather than offer to “do anything” — a coffee, some flowers, a pay-it-forward donation, a book, music, or a DVD, something small, can mean so much.) The other resources not to be overlooked are the local and national prostate cancer care centers and foundations. They are a great resource of people and information, and an opportunity to connect with others recently diagnosed and walking the same path.
MP: What advice do you have for men diagnosed with prostate cancer?
BW: Very simply: celebrate life and then step up to #KickingCancersAss. As mentioned, prostate cancer is not a death sentence, and if you are fortunate to discover it via early detection, you have many options. If you are not “early”, remember you still have a world-class medical system in Canada available to support you!