Battling prostate cancer-A misnomer?


Published February 6, 2010

Layton cancels first public appearance since cancer announcement

BRAMPTON, Ont. – Health issues forced Jack Layton to miss his first scheduled appearance since announcing he has cancer, a sign the NDP leader may not be able to sustain his usual frenetic pace while he is receiving treatment.

The 59-year-old NDP leader revealed Friday he was diagnosed in December with prostate cancer, a disease his father overcame.

He has vowed to beat it too and stay on as leader of the New Democrats and MP for Toronto-Danforth, though fighting the disease may have already put a dent in the energetic politician’s normally jam-packed schedule of community and cultural events.

Layton was scheduled to attend two public events Saturday, though health concerns forced him to trim it back to one. At a gala fundraiser celebrating Chinese New Year in Toronto, Layton – a mainstay at such functions – said he doesn’t want to have to ease up on attending them.

“I hope not, because I love these events,” he said. “It’s like you’re being invited into the living room of each community.”

Earlier in the day he was scheduled to attend a celebration for a local publication in Brampton, Ont., at a Sikh place of worship, but wasn’t able to make it.

“I didn’t speak to his doctors, but he was not in a condition to travel,” said Layton’s spokesman Karl Belanger.

“I do not know if it was related to his cancer or not.”

Layton did call one of the speakers at the event, Jagtar Shergill, who held his phone up to a microphone as Layton read his prepared remarks.

“First, I apologize for not being able to be there with you today,” Layton said.

“I am however honoured to be able to join you by phone, celebrating the sixth anniversary of Road News being published and distributed in the community.”

Saturday evening, when Layton and Chow arrived at the Dragon Ball in Toronto, they were greeted by well-wishers at every turn.

“I said (to Layton), at the end of the day I appreciate what he’s been doing for his party and for the people of Canada, but certainly take care of himself because health above all is important,” said Richmond Hill, Ont., Coun. Godwin Chan.

Pauline Tong, president of the Yee Hong Community Wellness Foundation, a charity supporting seniors and their families and the beneficiary of Saturday’s fundraiser, said it’s “amazing” that Layton showed up.

“He’s treating life as exciting as it can be,” she said. “He’s a fighter. I said he’s going to be living more than 100 years old.”

Chow is also a cancer survivor, having won a battle with thyroid cancer.

Layton said he especially didn’t want to miss the Dragon Ball, in its 21st year, because he and his wife – NDP MP Olivia Chow – have attended each year.

“He’s also born in the year of the tiger,” Chow said.

“This is my year,” Layton chimed in. “And my mother-in-law’s year. We have two tigers in the house.”

Layton said Friday that his treatment plan is underway, but his staff said the details would remain between Layton and his doctor.

Layton has represented the riding of Toronto-Danforth since 2004. He just celebrated his seventh anniversary as leader.

My thoughts-

Battling cancer…hummm. It’s a different kind of battle.  I wish Mr. Layton the best, but vowing to “beat” prostate cancer makes for a positive statement and maybe reassuring to his constituents but misses the mark. What I am about to delve into is not meant to be nihilistic, or critical of the use of the phrases, “won the battle”, “battling cancer” etc.; it’s more about a reality check about how people will do with a particular cancer. I’ll use prostate cancer as an example.

What got my attention about this were reports all over the prostate cancer news feeds about the Canadian lawmaker announcing that he had prostate cancer and that he “vowed to beat it.” Just as the Canadian press was announcing the revelation that he had cancer, Mr. Layton misses a scheduled engagement. Now the headlines read, “Controversy over “vowing to beat cancer” remark. The inference is that how is it he is going to beat cancer and yet using it as an excuse for not showing up for events. What is going on? The press up there are insinuating that he is having problems with whatever treatment he has chosen. It’s a funny situation, the meshing of the press and a public figure and using any statement or action and making an issue or press release out of it.

Now back to battling cancer. I have have had cancer and I have been treated for prostate cancer. Did I do battle with it? I liken my bout with it as being in a plane that is whizzing down out of the sky prior to landing. I am placing all of my trust in things not in my control. It is an out of control experience.

With prostate cancer it starts with learning of the elevated PSA and the need for the biopsy. That is the first phase. Will the results of the biopsy be negative, or positive with good parameters or positive with bad parameters? If you have bad parameters in your biopsy(high Gleason’s score and high number of positive cores) then you can battle all day long, but how you will ultimately do has more to do with the type of cancer you have. The next phase, if you choose to remove the prostate, is the final results of the pathologic review of your prostate. Again, volume of disease and the Gleason’s score is evaluated. In addition the absence of capsular extension or extra-capsular extension  is detirmined. It will be either good or bad. The patient has done all he can do, the innate characteristics of the cancer really determine his fate. He can, however, “fight the good fight” with grace and dignity.

So…battling cancer, what is it really? What battling cancer is is the spirit and attitude of the patient.  The spirit is the mindset of the newly diagnosed male. Does he keep working? Does he keep up a positive attitude? Does he help and reassure loved ones? Yes this type of person is snubbing the cancer, not letting it get the best of him mentally. Unfortunately the notion that you can will the cancer away by being strong is not going to happen. Having faith,in my opinion, helps the male deal with the cancer, not defeat it.(I am speaking in terms of cure. I do feel you can defeat cancer with your spirit in that one does not allow it to control your life.)

Cancer is a lot like a saying in golf that compares a hook to a slice. Cancer being the hook. ” You can talk to a slice. A hook won’t listen to a damn thing you say.”

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