George Wright’s Fight Against Prostate Cancer
How many times have you found yourself uttering that familiar lament, ‘If I knew then what I know now?’
For George Wright, it has been a haunting refrain for the past two years.
When the Edmonton firefighter retired to Vernon in 2005 at age 55, he looked forward to an active lifestyle in the sunny Okanagan. Like many men, prostate testing was the last thing on his mind.
“I never heard about a prostate test (PSA) until 2013 when I was 64. When I asked my doctor about the PSA, he said he didn’t test unless there were signs or symptoms,” said Wright.
Unfortunately, in 2013, when symptoms appeared for Wright, he was not only diagnosed with prostate cancer, but the cancer had metastasized to his lymph nodes.
“It was devastating to my wife and me. Your life is totally turned upside down.”
His brother had been diagnosed with prostate cancer two years previously in 2011 but he ignored his brother’s diagnosis not knowing it is hereditary. “Men don’t like to talk about it. My brother’s doctor never even told my brother to tell other males in the family,” said Wright.
While there’s no turning back the clock to change his circumstances, Wright hopes to help others have a better future.
“Once you turn 50 or 45 with family history, I tell guys to get a PSA test. It’s just a simple blood test to give you a benchmark. It’s what you do afterwards that can have risks, but early diagnosis can save your life.”
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Canadian men and men with a father or brother who has had prostate cancer are two times more likely to develop prostate cancer than men with no family history of the disease.
Wright’s treatment included radiation and hormone therapy. He also visits a whole health clinic that helps with spiritual needs as well as nutrition, exercise and healthy food preparation.
“If you get focused on the illness, you can get pretty overwhelmed,” he said. “All the specialists have been incredibly good.”
The tremendous amount of body changes Wright has endured include hot flashes, fatigue, weight gain, edema, neuropathy, trigger finger and an 80% loss of strength in his grip.
“It’s an ugly disease. I used to do combat challenge courses, now I can’t do a chin-up or open a jar.”
Wright doesn’t know what the future will hold for him, but keeps a positive outlook and a good sense of humour.
“It’s like they said in that movie, The Shawshank Redemption, ‘Get busy living or get busy dying’.”
Last winter he travelled to Kenya and Tanzania on an 18-day safari, fulfilling one of the items on his bucket list.
“I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. After the 30-hour trip and change in altitude, I spent the first night at this fancy 5 star safari lodge sleeping on the floor with ice on my neck and Kleenex in my nose to try to stop the bleeding. It’s kind of funny when you think of it.”
Wright is also a member of the Vernon Prostate Support and Awareness Group (PSA Group). The PSA Group meets the fourth Monday of each month from Sept-Nov, Jan-May, at The People Place, providing men and their families with information and support.
The PSA Group also partners with Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation for the annual Do it For Dad Run & Walk to raise money for the purchase of equipment to diagnose and treat prostate cancer in the North Okanagan. Funds also pay for PSA screening vouchers. PSA screenings are not covered by medical services unless a man has a history of prostate cancer or if your doctor recommends a PSA and checks the MSP pays box on the lab requisition.
“After my diagnosis, my urologist gave me a big bag of information on prostate cancer. I wish I had gotten it 10 years earlier. It’s great that we have events like ‘Do it For Dad’ to help to get the word out and to raise money for treatment.”
The ‘Do it For Dad Run & Walk’ presented by Interior Savings takes place Sunday, June 21st at Coldstream Ranch. Registration begins at 8:30 am and the race starts at 9:30 am. To register or donate, visit www.vjhfoundation.org or call 250.558.1362.