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The Seto family (or the Seto Six as they call themselves) are Ricky, Nora (wife and mom), Kathleen (26), Erin (25), Connor (23) and Sean (20). This is a glimpse into their story of how love, competitiveness and grit can get you through the toughest experience of your life.

His four kids call him ‘Fix-it Ricky’. Dad, Richard (aka Ricky) Seto, loves to fix things – everything from a broken appliance to a complex problem his kid might be dealing with at work. Turns out, he always finds a solution. So when Ricky was diagnosed with palliative late-stage prostate cancer in 2023, his family wanted nothing more than to fix him.

“It’s not just my battle,” says Ricky. “It’s a battle for my family and friends. It’s devastating and they don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do. But what we’ve found is being open and talking about it helps everybody get through it.”

And so…their prostate cancer journey began.

Ricky, like many men, had no symptoms. Through routine blood work, his PSA score started at 2.4 and soared to 14.7 in a matter of weeks. With such an exponential rise, Ricky knew whatever was happening was really active and aggressive. He quickly scheduled an MRI and biopsy.

In the meantime, the Setos were headed out on a family vacation to the United Kingdom. The day before departure, Dr. Geoffrey Gotto received Ricky’s results and was concerned enough to call him with the news. Ricky was ordered to pick up pills at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre to take right away, enjoy his holiday, and see Dr. Gotto upon return.

Erin, in her final year of medical school at the University of Calgary, carried the weight of the news in a different way. “In school we’ve practised telling families bad news, and now here I am living it,” she says. “I learned about cancer, what the numbers mean in blood work. It was definitely hard having that extra level of knowledge. And there’s just so much fear – of the unknown and while you’re waiting.”

Ricky faced his diagnosis head on through education and understanding his trajectory. He underwent radiation for six weeks but the masses that had spread to his pubic bones were relentless. While he continues to be asymptomatic, he undergoes androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), taking am injection every 4 months plus a daily powerful pill to help slow the cancer growth.

With a bit of grit and support, life goes on

“We like to say we have grit,” says Nora. “We’re strong and we support each other. And for Ricky, this is something that he has to live with, and we just make sure he stays healthy and enjoys life.”

The kids joke that they were raised competitively (and learned about dedication and grit) through chores, sports and activities, and piano.

“It’s the Suzuki piano,” Kathleen laughs. “The grit comes from sticking it out through piano for so many years. But also, we’re close in age and growing up we did everything together, so we developed tight-knit relationships. When hard stuff comes up, we talk to each other and we never feel alone.”

Sean, the youngest, believes they’re fortunate to have been raised so competitively and to be so close to his siblings. “Our closeness is rare, and I really appreciate that. I feel very happy when we’re together and love that we support each other in any way we can.”

The power of social media

The competitive family trait did them well when they decided to start a GoFundMe in his honour called The Ricky Race with proceeds going to the Prostate Cancer Centre.

They set individual fitness challenges based on prostate cancer stats in Canada. With donations from people they haven’t heard from in ages to grade school friends and current colleagues, they met their original goal of $4,000 ($1,000 each) in a couple of days. Seeing how much people love Ricky, they continued the fundraiser finally raising a total of $12,660.

The idea of putting his diagnosis out there, for the world to see, was scary at first. But as a family, they decided that if they could help others through awareness, then why not?

“I think what our family has done with the Ricky Race really shows that everyone can make a difference. Just us six were able to raise money that will make a difference in others lives and I hope others will take inspiration from that” says Connor.

The power of people at the Prostate Cancer Centre

When thinking about the Prostate Cancer Centre, the whole family agrees Alberta is lucky to call it home, especially with the newly renovated space and addition of a pre-habilitation centre. But what Ricky remembers most is the people.

“I’m really thankful for their empathy,” he recalls. “The people at the centre are so lovely, they understand everyone is on this serious journey and they’re empathetic, hopeful and patient.”

Ricky jests proudly that he has doctor’s permission to use ‘remission’ and ‘cancer survivor’ because his cancer is controlled even though it’s not a matter of if his tumors will grow again, rather when.

 While he can’t fix the metastatic prostate cancer in his body, he does fix how he lives the rest of his life by being active, eating well, and taking care of his mental wellbeing, he’s making sure he continues to lives his best life.

Photo caption: Ricky has been a longtime Calgary Stampede volunteer (36 years). His family calls him the King of Stampede. L-R (Erin, Connor, Sean, Nora, Kathleen, Ricky).