Bob O’Blenis is a healthy 72 years of age. But his story might be different had his wife Patricia not made a doctor’s appointment for him.
At age 58 — 10 years after retiring from the military — he was diagnosed with cancer.
“They found an aggressive prostate cancer,” said O’Blenis, committee chair of the Prostate Cancer Canada Network Comox Valley Support Group. “I felt good. No symptoms.”
The Courtenay resident had a high PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) reading of 39, which prompted hormone and radiation treatments at Victoria General Hospital. O’Blenis was housed near the hospital for an affordable fee, and managed to take long walks throughout the treatments. After three months, his PSA was brought down to zero.
But less than a year later, his PSA reading had jumped to nine. Doctors put him on a hormone treatment consisting of a pill three times a day and an injection every four months.
He was told to proceed as such for the rest of his life, but recent studies have determined treatments can stop until readings start to rise. So his oncologist gave the green light to suspend treatments while monitoring his health.
O’Blenis notes the advanced stage of prostate cancer migrates and ends up as a bone cancer.
“That’s the last stages — the worst stages.”
On Saturday, O’Blenis will volunteer at the Telus Ride For Dad, which raises funds for prostate cancer research, and raises awareness of the disease.
It’s the most commonly diagnosed men’s cancer in Canada, generally affecting those over 40. One in seven Canadian men will develop prostate cancer during his lifetime.
Departing from Slegg Lumber, riders will follow a scenic route through the Comox Valley and up to Campbell River. The honorary chair/ride captain is Deborah Grey, a former Reform Party MP who served in Beaver River, based at Coal Lake in Alberta, and later in Edmonton North. She is also a motorcycle enthusiast.
“This is my 49th year riding,” said Grey, a Qualicum resident who was still in politics when the event started in Ottawa. She has been involved ever since.
“Preston Manning and I were there because he had had prostate surgery,” she said, recalling Ottawa resident Garry Janz had a vision to raise money for the disease.
“They asked us if we would lend our names to it (the ride). The military got behind it, and the police. That lent a whole lot of credibility to it. And then Telus has been a big, big supporter of it. So the ride has taken off. It’s grown from year to year.”
Grey and husband Lewis Larson ride matching 1999 Honda Valkyries, the sport version of a Honda GoldWing. Her machine weighs 850 pounds.
“I always laugh about this and say, ‘I don’t have a prostate but I love and know a whole lot of guys that do.’ It’s just a wonderful thing to do.
“My husband, he makes sure that he gets prostate checkups with his PSA,” she added. “You talk to absolutely anyone and they will know somebody who knows somebody whose life has been affected by this. I just think it’s a good cause and the money gets wisely spent. The more research we can put into it, the better people will be. But everyone has a responsibility to go get their PSA checked.”
Successful treatment depends on early detection. Ninety per cent of prostate cancer cases can be successfully treated. Nevertheless, 4,100 men in Canada will die from the disease this year.
“There’s 100 times as many that die with prostate cancer than die of prostate cancer,” O’Blenis said. “At age 40, the best idea is to get a baseline reading, they call it. You can live with a (PSA) reading of anywhere up to two or three all your life, as long as it stays the same.”
Yearly checkups are recommended starting at age 40.
In the longer term, research into improved diagnosis, treatment, prevention and a cure will improve the capacity to deal with the disease.
Since it began in 2010, the local Telus Ride For Dad has had 1,354 riders and raised $82,000. As of June 9, this year’s campaign had garnered $3,020 — 20 per cent of the goal.
Canada-wide, the event has raised more than $18 million.
Register for the June18 ride at RideForDad.ca, or on the day of the event at Slegg Lumber from 7-10 a.m.
“We are kick-stands up at 10:30,” Grey said. “There’s some kind of rush when you see 300 bikes pulling out at the same time, everyone with a common cause.”
Non-riders can make a donation, raise pledges, volunteer or just hang out to cheer on the riders.
Slegg Lumber is at 3217 Small Rd. in Cumberland.