Dale Erikson believes a simple blood test – just a quick prick of the arm – saved his life.
The Chilliwack resident had no family history or any other risk factors pertaining to prostate cancer, and yet at 61, a prostate-specific antigen test (PSA) showed protein irregularities in his prostate gland.
Erikson, who had been getting the blood test for 11 years, said his protein levels doubled in two years.
“It was enough of a warning sign to get a biopsy,” he said.
The biopsy came back positive for cancer.
Erikson was lucky. It was early stage cancer. He had surgery – one of three options available to him – and “four weeks later, I was swinging a golf club,” he said, now six years in remission.
Some men, however, are not so lucky.
In Canada, it’s estimated over one million men have prostate cancer, and approximately one in six men will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime, making it the second leading cause of cancer death in Canadian men.
While it’s believed approximately 90 per cent of cases can be cured with early detection, prostate cancer awareness is still lacking, and men are still shying away from getting pre-screened.
“Men don’t want to talk about it,” said Erikson, who started a Chilliwack support group last year for others who have either survived the disease or are going through it.
“The ‘C’ word is a very devastating word.”
The second annual Chilliwack Westcoast Motorcycle Ride to Live is working to change that.
On May 27, motorcyclists from all over the Fraser Valley will be hitting the roads in support of prostate cancer.
“We wanted to do something to fight this disease and get the word out for guys to get checked out,” said event spokesperson Roy Hafeli, who lost his father to prostate cancer seven years ago.
The poker-run ride will travel through Chilliwack, Rosedale, Agassiz, Mission, Langley and Cloverdale, ending at the Fraser Downs Racetrack where a vintage car show will ensue.
Throughout the ride, motorcyclists will be sporting a white prostate cancer flag, and all proceeds raised will go to prostate cancer research and supports for men diagnosed with the disease.
“We found that this was an area that was lacking in support,” said Hafeli. And yet, “there are some amazing doctors and researchers in the Vancouver area doing cutting edge stuff for prostate cancer.”
It starts with awareness.
While there is no single cause of prostate cancer, there are factors that increase the risk of developing it, including age, African or Caribbean descent, and family history.
But men without any of those factors can still develop the cancer.
“In my case, I had no abnormalities, there were no indications whatsoever,” said Erikson. “If I never had the PSA test, I wouldn’t have known – and that’s the scary thing.”
Prostate Cancer Canada recommends men start getting the PSA test at 40. While the threat of prostate cancer is minimal at this age, the test will establish a baseline enabling doctors to spot any irregularities or trends.
PSA tests are not covered by the Medical Services Plan, but men like Erikson and the organizers of the Westcoast Ride to Live, hope to one day change that. They want PSAs covered just like mammograms are for women.
The Westcoast Ride to Live is on May 27. Registration is $25 online at www.ridetolive.ca. Pre registration can also be done on May 26 at Mountainview Harley, or starting at 7 a.m. at Walmart, before the ride.
The ride starts at 9 a.m.
The first leg of the ride will be escorted by RCMP.
Two motorcycles will be raffled off. Tickets are $20 and only 2,500 will be sold.
Organizers hope to raise $200,000.
For more information, visit the website www.ridetolive.ca.