Jack Layton, cancer and community leadership

Jack Layton should inspire us all not because of his political beliefs but because of his openness and transparency around his prostate cancer. May he rest in peace.

Jack Layton should inspire us all not because of his political beliefs but because of his openness and transparency around his prostate cancer. May he rest in peace.

You may think it odd to link cancer and community leadership, but my own experiences this past winter and spring have shown me otherwise.

Last January, I was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of prostate cancer. To say I was surprised would be an understatement as I never had any symptoms of any kind.

Luckily for me we caught it early — thanks to a close friend who many years ago was dying of this insidious disease and insisted on his death bed that I get a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test every year.

Frankly that advice probably saved my life. Many prostate cancers are much slower than mine and thus are usually very treatable if caught in time.

Incredibly one in six Canadian men will develop some form of prostate cancer.

Let’s figure it out: According to Statistics Canada, more than 71,000 men are older than 45 within the Capital Region.

If one in six men over the age of 45 is likely to develop this disease, then sadly, I am estimating that at least 11,800 of our male colleagues in the CRD — maybe even you — will get this disease during our lifetimes.

Incredibly, many of these men older than 40 will still refuse to get an annual PSA. Why is that? They don’t want to spend the $40? Call me and I will pay it for you.

You don’t want somebody poking into your rear end? I can tell you it’s better to have it done than the pain and uncertainty of late stage cancer and cancer treatments.

I got lucky — my surgery was a great success, six months later my PSA is zero — basically I have a high probability of being completely cancer free.

But all our brothers who don’t, can’t or won’t bother to get tested annually will not be so lucky. This cancer doesn’t have to maim or kill you if you catch it early enough, but remaining ignorant will undoubtedly change those chances.

Experts tell us that with early detection, prostate cancer can be curable, with a 90 to 95 per cent success rate of not only surviving but also fully recovering functionality. Ask your doctor about the statistics for late detection — they are not so good.

Linking community leadership is simple. Our chamber is committed to fostering a healthy community in the West Shore.

Most of us have some leadership role to play whether it be as a leader in the work place, as a dad, granddad, spouse, coach for a sports team or in a church or local charity.

In other words, others rely on us, depend upon us and they need us to be healthy role models. They don’t need us in denial or neglecting our bodies and our body’s needs.

I got lucky because a good friend shared his death-bed lesson. Don’t wait to get lucky, get your annual PSA.  Do it for your community. Do it for your family. Do it for yourself.

Our communities are healthier when we are healthier — be a real man and step-up and, if required, bend over and smile.


— Dan Spinner is the CEO of the WestShore Chamber of Commerce.



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