Author: BARBARA BALFOUR, POSTMEDIA CONTENT WORKS
A moment of boredom in a parking lot led to the spontaneous blood test that ended up saving John Radermacher’s life.
While showing off his hot rod at a car show at the Grey Eagle Casino, Radermacher spotted the MAN VAN — a mobile program created by the Prostate Cancer Centre that offers free screenings in communities across Calgary and rural southern Alberta.
Because it had been over a year since Radermacher had been tested for the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) that, when elevated, can be a marker for cancer, he hopped in for a blood test during an afternoon lull and thought nothing more of it until the results came back.
One repeat test and a biopsy later, Radermacher was told he had cancer.
“As part of my annual physical, I always had a PSA test done,” says Radermacher, 64. “I had zero symptoms, no indication of anything being amiss, and no reason to believe it ran in my family.
“While it was advanced enough to get everyone’s attention, the tumour in my prostate was still encapsulated. If prostate cancer is caught early it is very treatable. But most guys don’t want to have anything to do with that area, and we want to change that.”
About one in seven men in Alberta are diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Last year, 400 Alberta men died from it.
Radermacher, who opted to have his prostate surgically removed two years ago, credits the early detection, diagnosis and treatment of the disease to the resources available at the Prostate Cancer Centre. He was referred to the Calgary centre by his family doctor.
A collaborative institution working with the Southern Alberta Institute of Urology, the Centre brings together physicians, nurses and researchers under one roof to provide a one-stop shop facility for prostate cancer patients and their partners and loved ones.
Located at the Rockyview General Hospital, it offers a range of services from biopsies and consultations with a urologist, to pelvic physiotherapy and couples’ intimacy workshops.
Most notably, its rapid access clinics enable patients to enter the system quickly and receive a diagnosis within three weeks of admission — compared to the 100-day wait times patients faced previously.
Founded in 1999 by Dr. Bryan Donnelly and Dr. John Saliken, the Prostate Cancer Centre receives more than 10,000 patient visits every year. The only centre of its kind in Alberta, it does not receive any government funding and relies solely on the generosity of donors, sponsors and third-party fundraising events.
“We don’t want any government funding, because what comes with it is a lot of strings. We really treasure the flexibility that our independence gives us, rather than having to go through a series of committees every time we want to go in a certain direction or provide other medical options,” says Dr. Donnelly.
Newly diagnosed men attend classes given by a urologist, radiation oncologist and medical oncologist in one of the centre’s six clinics that are tailored to meet patients’ needs according to their stage of treatment and disease.
There are clinics for post-surgery recovery (where patients are monitored for a year afterwards), those experiencing long-term side effects from treatment, patients undergoing active surveillance for low-grade disease, and those who require palliative care.
One of the most appreciated resources the Centre offers is a solid emotional support mechanism.
“It’s not a bunch of guys clapping each other on the back. It’s a well-stocked library, pamphlets for what to expect, and peer to peer groups where we discuss how we’re feeling and what has happened,” says Radermacher.
A year and a half after he had the surgery, he decided to give back to the centre by becoming a volunteer.
“Part of my role is to put guys at ease and alleviate any apprehension they may have,” says Radermacher, who also drives the MAN VAN on occasion.
“Most guys coming in for a biopsy have eyes like pizza pans. Guys do not generally discuss their prostates, but it’s a lot easier to hear about it from those who have gone through the process themselves.”
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of the Prostate Cancer Centre.