John Sowik

John Sowik

Stepping out to help fight prostate cancer

Chilliwack is hosting its first Father's Day Walk/Run for Prostate Cancer on June 17 at Vedder Trail.

John Sowik credits his wife for saving his life.

Without her, he would never have requested a PSA test, would never have connected the hot poker pains in his calves to prostate cancer, would never have even thought he, a relatively young 46-year-old, could have prostate cancer.

Neither would his doctor.

“She saved my life,” Sowik said.

In 2010, Sowik had been riddled with excruciating calf pains. His doctor thought it could be a pinched nerve, and sent him to a neurologist. He was also sent for blood work to rule out any cholesterol or electrolyte issues.

But when his wife, Elaine, who was then his girlfriend, described the situation to her co-workers, one suggested Sowik get a PSA blood test.

PSA tests are prostate-specific antigen tests that uncover protein irregularities in the prostate gland.

Sowik wanted nothing to do with it.

“I immediately thought of the digital [rectal] exam; I did not want to be waiting for him to get the gloves on,” said Sowik. “I mean, come on, I was only 46.”

Prostate cancer is more commonly diagnosed in men over the age of 50.

But Elaine would not let it go. She harped on him everyday until he relented.

When Sowik finally requested the PSA, his doctor looked at him and said, “Why?”

It’s reactions like that, that have Sowik lacing up his shoes on June 17 for Chilliwack’s first Fathers’ Day Walk in support of prostate cancer.

“We’ve got to get the awareness out there,” Sowik said. “I tell everybody my story, and if I can get one guy to go and get tested, it’s worth it.”

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.

Sowik’s test results showed his PSA levels were at 11; normal range for a guy his age is 1.5. A digital rectal exam found a nodule on the right side of his prostate. The urologist was 75 per cent sure it was cancer.

“When you get that word, it’s cancer, everything stops,” said Sowik. “Your future, gone. All you can think of is the next couple months. What will the diagnosis be? What will the outcome of the surgery be?”

Still, it’s better than the alternative.

Sowik’s urologist asked him why he requested the PSA. When he told him it was to appease Elaine, the urologist flat out told him, “”Your girlfriend may have just saved your life.”

If Sowik had waited until he was 50 or 55 to get the test, “it may have been too late,” the cancer would likely have broken free of the prostate and spread to his bones and elsewhere.

Sowik had the prostate removed on April 19, 2010. Last July, he underwent radiation therapy when his PSA levels started creeping up again.

For the past year, he’s been getting PSA tests every three months to monitor his levels. Come July, if everything comes back clear, he’ll only need to get the PSA tests every six months for the next two years.

If no abnormalities show on the PSA for five years, he’ll be considered cure.

It’s no wonder he and Elaine were married a couple months after the prostate was removed.

“My wife saved my life. The PSA saved my life.”

FATHER’S DAY WALK/RUN FOR PROSTATE CANCER:

The 5 km Fathers’ Day Walk/Run is on June 17 along the Vedder Trail starting at 9:30 a.m.

Registration is $35 and can be done online at www.fathersdayrun.ca, or on the day of the run at 8 a.m. at the ASU, located on Keith Wilson and Korea Road.

Registration fees will be waived for anyone who raises $125 or more.

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33