When Tom Childress was diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago, he admits the hardest part was telling his children.
“It’s tough to look them in the eye and tell them you have cancer,’ the 53-year-old Rugby resident said. “In a lot of ways, it was tougher on them than on me. It didn’t keep me awake at night. I knew it was something I was going to to deal with and overcome.”
And Childress did.
Nineteen months following a four-and-a-half-hour laser surgery at the Mayo Clinic to remove the cancer and his prostate, life, for the most part, is back to normal. However, Tom still makes a half-dozen clinical visits each year to closely monitor his progress.
“It was an amazing procedure,” he said, noting he didn’t go through any radiation or chemotherapy treatment.
“I had the surgery on a Thursday, and I was back to work the following Tuesday.”
The only adjustment was using a catheter for a week, but eventually that was removed.
Tom will share his story of cancer at this week’s Pierce County Relay For Life. Childress is the event’s honorary cancer survivor, and he will make a few remarks at the opening ceremony this Friday, May 29 at 7 p.m. at Rugby’s Johnsen Field.
Cancer in the family
Although Childress’ family had a history of cancer – both his father and father-in-law had prostate cancer – he learned a lot through visiting with others who had it and doing research on the subject.
“One of of first things I learned is there are a lot of stereotypes associated with different cancers,’ he said. “And it’s wrong to assume everyone will go through it the same way.”
For example, Childress assumed prostate cancer affected old men and it was slow-growing.
He learned just the opposite. Childress didn’t have any alarming symptoms that would lead him to believe he might have cancer. Results from a routine physical did suggest his PSA (prostatic specific antigen) levels were up slightly, and his physician, Dr. Seiler, requested he undergo a biopsy.
It didn’t reveal cancer, but a second biopsy conducted shortly thereafter did. More distressing was the cancer was fast-moving.
“I was fortunate that doctors detected it when they did,’ he said.
Childress had his surgery a short time later, in October of 2007.
Another misconception of this type of cancer is that it will most likely cause men to become impotent and incontinent. That isn’t the case, and that can be avoided by removing the prostate, he said.
Childress acknowledges that people deal with their cancer differently, and his experience shows the power of positive thinking.
“Cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence,’ he said. “There can be life after cancer.”
This week’s Relay For Life, in part, celebrates life after cancer for survivors as well as remembering loved ones who have succumbed to the disease.
It truly is a community event, an opportunity to unite, Tom said.
Virtually everyone is affected by cancer in some way, and coming together as a community can do nothing but help people gain strength, he said.
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