*EDITOR’S NOTE: On Tuesday, to mark the start of Movember, Global sports reporter John Sexsmith opened up about his four-year fight with cancer for the first time. He sat down with colleague Gord Steinke and talked about his Stage 4 prostate cancer diagnosis, explained what treatments he’s been undergoing and what impact the disease has had on his life and his family.
John also wrote an incredibly candid blog post about his experiences so far.
I wrote the first blog post last November. I was preparing to come out of the bathroom to kick-off the Movember campaign, but I got scared by the scope and gravity of making my very secret story public. In re-reading the blog, it now seems quite a bit more graphic than I remembered, so I must apologize. I’ll blame it on the morphine. Ha ha.
Movember 2015 took a lot out of me.
I tried to participate in all of the Move For Movember Mondays that were so kindly organized by Quinn Ohler, Margeaux Morin and our ace promotions department. I gave it everything I had for each fitness event.
They were fabulous! But I overdid it.
It took me about two months to get my cranky old bladder settled down.
But we did increase awareness concerning men’s mental and physical health. Plus we raised a lot of money. Our goal was $10,000. We raised over $25,000! Again, thank you to absolutely everybody who contributed!
December. Holidays. Various shifts and hours. I began to fade. Fast. So with the great guidance and support from Global’s Human Resources team, we decided I would go on Long Term Disability in March.
Unfortunately, we learned of more cancer in January. Our 100-pound dog was diagnosed with bladder cancer. So we added a cancer kinship to our bond.
Throughout the month, she would wake me up, several times a night, asking to go outside and eliminate. It was extremely sad watching her struggle. During the dead of night and in the dead of winter. She passed away in her sleep, at home, Jan. 31.
Watch below: For years, John Sexsmith has been quietly battling prostate cancer. Now, for Movember, he’s going public to shine a spotlight on the disease. Su-Ling Goh has the story.
I had lost a lot of weight and expected the worst during a January blood test. Sure enough: a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) of 10.6, nearly five times my previous number. I received another hormone injection. So my wife and I got to go through menopause together. Hot flashes, bloating, mood changes, all kinds of fun stuff.
In the middle of February, I had committed to coaching a high-performance hockey team, representing the Peace Country at the Alberta Winter Games in Medicine Hat. We lived in a public school for five days. I was scared as hell something would go wrong or somebody would figure out I wasn’t quite right. But I got through it. And the entire team had a blast. Coach included.
My last sportscasts were March 5. And I managed to nail my anchor work, mistake-free, with a big assist from morphine. Yikes! I was in terrible pain that day. I officially went on leave March 7.
I was going to use the following five weeks to prepare for an operation that’s normally used on patients with an overactive bladder. The idea was to freeze my bladder with Botox and help ease the spasms. I was feeling the best I had in months – and consistently. Way more good days than bad.
I largely credit the improvement with a strength and conditioning program I was attending funded by Movember. A yoga class was also part of the program.
Watch below: Fitness program funded by Movember Foundation helping men with prostate cancer
So, in the middle of April I felt ready for surgery. During the operation, I received 40 Botox injections in my bladder. Suddenly, I had a 54-year-old bladder that looked 39!
I told the surgeon: “How about next time you use 20 of those babies on my bladder, five each for my smile lines and 10 more on the ol’ forehead?”
Two days later, I thought I was dying. My body was seizing up and it felt like I was having a heart attack. Unfortunately, my wife and son were in Calgary for a weekend hockey tournament. What to do? Freak out my family? Nope.
I went in yoga mode. Calmed my mind and my body seemed to follow.
Still, I was very, very sick for about three more days. That incident however really rattled me mentally. I began to visit a psychologist. I hoped to get back to work in September. It has been fantastic.
Despite the scare, I dragged myself to strength and conditioning the following week. It turned things around – slowly but surely. And, along with more yoga, April, May and June were excellent. I re-finished my deck and refurbished my tiki bar. I gardened like crazy and my yard looked spectacular. During all of that, I still managed to avoid any heavy lifting which can have some adverse effects on my catheter. So things were going great. I began to read a lot and started to learn how to play the violin. I also dabbled in cooking and baking.
But in July, my catheter inadvertently popped out. So I had to perform emergency surgery on myself. Fortunately, it worked but those rudimentary efforts also really aggravated my plumbing system. As a result, July, August and September were awful. Which coincidentally, were the months the strength and conditioning program was on summer hiatus.
A return-to-work date in September was subsequently thrown out the window.
I did however receive some great news in August. My PSA went down to a level of .02. It was a huge moral victory.
Time for another dip in the roller coaster. I developed a Staph infection in September, which compounded my problems. Southwest Homecare made several visits throughout the summer to help me out and I can’t thank the nurses enough for their health care professionalism. I’m now also seeing a physiotherapist and massage therapist.
Two weeks ago, the three urologists who are currently on my case all agreed: a radical cystectomy would help solve my catheter problems.
It’s intense. It’s a procedure that’s usually performed on bladder cancer patients. I’ll be in hospital for two weeks and recovering at home for another two months.
I’m extremely hopeful this operation will change my fortunes and get me back to work.
So why tell my story – and finally come out – nearly five years into my ordeal? Because I owe this better quality of life to Movember.
The strength and conditioning program, sponsored by the movement, has done wonders for me. It’s also helping an increasing number of others physically, mentally, emotionally and socially.
For more on Mo go to mobro.co/dadeo.
Please and many thanks.