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Prostate stardom?

Not as much fun as you’d think

There are many awkward moments associated

with being a prostate cancer poster boy. For instance, the paparazzi seem interested in

photos of my surgical scar. Not so easy to obtain, even in the summer on the beach. If I went to the beach. Actually I don’t know whose close-ups they got because my swimsuit reaches from mid- thigh to nipples. I‘m conservative that way. Their grainy telephoto-ed pics are meant to

snag shots of me buying adult diapers in drugstore aisles. Actually the adult diapers are next to the headache remedies. The badgering gives me headaches, therefore… Then of course comes the barrage of empty-

headed questions media types fling. I add in parentheses my imaginary snappy responses. “Richard (why do they use my first name?

I’m not their buddy!), when did you first know you had prostate cancer?” (“Great question, Al. It was the day I ate a

slice of stale chocolate cheesecake. Something felt wrong. So I went straight to the hospital. The gastro doctors were busy, but a urologist was available and he found it right away. Damn lucky, I was.”) “Mr. B (because they can’t pronounce my

last name), is it true you were awake during the prostatectomy?” (“Terrific research, Biff. Yes, I was. In fact I

retracted the right half of the incision for a few minutes, using just two fingers, while the surgeon had to answer an emergency cell call.”) “RB (can’t pronounce my first or last name),

can you tell us about erectile dysfunction?” (“No.”) Before my own diagnosis in July of 2005 – a

Wednesday at 10:13 am, if memory serves – I was just another ignorant male. Ladies: kindly refrain from guffaws. My knowledge of the prostate was limited to confusing it with lying face down on the floor. Or, in the immortal words of the late comedian Milton Berle, “You know you’re in


for a bad day if you wake up face down on the pavement.” I staggered through the lengthy and arduous

process of what treatment and by whom, all lovingly documented with dollops of baleful

wit in my book Assume the position: one guy’s journey through prostate cancer.

Which is about when the poster boy thing

began. Even if I’d been on death’s door, I would have been happy to manage it. For surely there had to be a way to promote the message that for us gents beyond 50, proper screening was in order. I am certain that had it not been for my astute, prescient GP who’d been monitoring me as a matter of course for some years, I’d have been in more dire straits. Since my radical prostatectomy – Thursday,

Jan. 19, 2006, 8 am, if memory serves – I can’t say no. Ladies: again, please refrain from calling. By deftly meandering through city streets to evade the paparazzi, I’ve managed to speak at numerous functions in Ontario to promote prostate cancer awareness. Not the least of these was the Motorcycle

Ride for Dad’s annual national convention last fall in Ottawa. It’s the world’s loudest prostate cancer fundraiser and it marks an auspicious 10th

anniversary in 2010. This phenomenal

organization has raised over $5 million in its decade, impressive by any standard. My talk that day began with the obvious.

“Prostate cancer sucks,” I announced, unencumbered by the distractions of photo journalists and TV lights. When I was done, the representatives from across Canada bought about 60 copies of my book. I sensed that if I’d charged triple the price, it wouldn’t have mattered. Big hearts don’t quibble. Some weeks later, I was invited to address

an east end group’s spaghetti dinner open house. The microphone was tinny, the background noise of slurping and yakking distracting, and the mixed gender and age audience not quite what I’d expected. But I dressed well, as poster boys should, again promoting awareness and check- ups. And yes, I flogged the book, too. Within ten

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