Second Chances – A Story of Hope and Survival
One in eight Canadian men is expected to develop prostate cancer during his lifetime.
Vernon resident Roy Gavelin acknowledges the statistics sound pretty scary, but wants people to know that a cancer diagnosis is not an automatic death sentence. Eleven years after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, the 67-year-old retired ranch worker and firefighter has a message of hope.
“I really sympathize with others going through cancer. It will scare you, but it’s not the end. With family support, great doctors and a faith structure, you can overcome anything. It’s a shock, but there is always hope.”
Like many men, Gavelin’s journey to the doctor’s office was a long one. He had started thinking about getting a physical and prostate testing when he worked at Coldstream Ranch.
“I would look after the last minute details for the Do it for Dad Run for prostate cancer. It started me thinking that I should pay attention to this,” he said.
But it wasn’t until several years later, at the age of 54, that Gavelin went for a physical that included a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.
“While the PSA numbers were initially good, over the next year and a half, they elevated. In April 2005, biopsy results revealed that of eight samples, two tested positive for cancer,” he said.
After discussing the pros and cons of various types of treatments with his doctor, Gavelin opted for surgery to remove the prostate. While the doctor wanted to perform the surgery in July, Gavelin asked to wait until the end of September when his work schedule would be lighter. However, working long hours seven days a week took its toll when he developed a double hernia. That fall, doctors performed prostate and hernia surgery at the same time.
“Everything went well with the surgeries, but then I was blind-sided by another form of cancer, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia,” he said.
“Once a year I see a hematologist, I don’t take medications. I just live with it. This cancer is an interesting road. You really never know what all is going to come out of it. I just feel blessed at 67 years old, that I am as healthy as I am.”
After his diagnosis, Gavelin joined the Vernon Prostate Cancer Support & Awareness Group. “Men have different ways of dealing with things,” he said.
“Men often miss out on the support side, and the support side is the fun side. You’ve already been through the scare, so it’s nice to be able to sit down and talk to somebody who has gone through it and connect with them.”
Throughout his journey, Gavelin’s wife of 37 years had been going through her own health issues. In March 2012, she passed away. “It leaves a big hole in your life,” he said. “That time was a revolving door of going to and from the hospital.”
Gavelin joined a grief support group to help overcome his loss, and ended up meeting someone who would eventually become his second wife.
“You don’t go to a support group expecting to find a partner. After 37 years I never thought I would have another chance at marriage or even want to go down that road,” he said. “I feel blessed to have a second chance.”
Gavelin continues to help spread awareness of prostate cancer as part of the Vernon Prostate Cancer Support & Awareness Group who partners with Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation each year for the Do it For Dad Run & Walk to fight prostate cancer.
“The Do it for Dad Event is very important to me,” he said. “In 2006 I had the privilege of meeting event founder April Sanders and thanking her. The one thing April stresses is awareness of men’s health. Sometimes we are too stubborn to deal with our health. We rely on our wives, sisters, the women in our lives to get us to do something. The journey is not pleasant when you are told you have cancer. We have to encourage men and their families to take responsibility for their health before it’s too late.”
Funds raised from Do it For Dad help fund educational materials for the support group as well as purchase equipment and PSA testing vouchers to diagnose prostate cancer for men in the North Okanagan.
The 17th Annual ‘Do it For Dad Run & Walk’ presented by Interior Savings takes place Sunday, June 19th at Coldstream Ranch. Registration begins at 8:30 am and the race starts at 9:30 am. To register or donate, click HERE or call 250.558.1362.