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Easy Ride Prostate Cancer Survivor hits open road during 5,400 mile recovery

Algonquin resident Wayne Kirkpatrick's 24 years as an Army counterterrorism expert, Department of Defense and state department consultant didn't slow him down. Neither did his 2003 prostate cancer diagnosis at age 56.

Wayne Kirkpatrick
Wayne Kirkpatrick, 61, of Algonquin, embarked on a 5,400-mile, 2 1/2 week cross-country motorcycle trek, just days after prostate cancer surgery.

"At the time, I'd never been in the hospital for anything other than bullet wounds," recalls the 61-year-old motorcycle enthusiast, triathlete and distance runner, who says fitness has always been an important part of his life.

After doctors discovered a suspicious lump at his annual physical exam, Kirkpatrick was referred to an oncologist. He was shocked to learn he had prostate cancer.

"My initial response was that I simply didn't have time for this," says Kirkpatrick, the father of three and grandfather of five. "A friend who had battled prostate cancer told me about the American Cancer Society's booklet describing my options, and I learned I had a decision to make."

Like many facing prostate cancer, Kirkpatrick looked at a variety of treatment options, including radiation therapy, seed implants and more. His choice? Surgery.

"I guess I was more concerned about life itself than worrying about quality of life," Kirkpatrick says. "Concerns about possible side effects seemed trivial in comparison."

Hitting the open road

Kirkpatrick opted for a June 2003 radical prostatectomy at Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington. Doctors performed the procedure though an incision just below his belly button. Two days later, he was home from the hospital, playing with his dog Thunder and riding his motorcycle around the block.

Just days later, he hit the open road for a 5,400-mile, 21/2-week cross-country motorcycle trek, destined for points from Alaska to southern California, Key West, New England and more.

"Surgery went well, and I'm convinced recovery would have taken longer had I remained sedentary," says Kirkpatrick, whose passion for motorcycles includes restoring a prized collection of 17 antique and classic cycles. "After just two days in the hospital, I could already feel my muscles beginning to atrophy."

Kirkpatrick says he was extremely cautious, riding gently and taking special care mounting and dismounting his motorcycle.

"I later learned that my tumor was much more aggressive than doctors initially thought, and that surgery most likely saved my life," he says. "It's been five years and I'm convinced I did the right thing."

Ending the silence

Kirkpatrick, who credits his doctors' skill along with his smooth and active recovery, says he doesn't understand the silence surrounding prostate cancer.

"Why are men dying and afraid to even have testing done?" he asks. "When I learn of friends with elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) results, I tell them not to be afraid and to have confidence in their doctors and the treatments out there."

That's the consensus of a number of Northwest suburban men, all cancer survivors and members of a special American Cancer Society (ACS) Men's Health Task Force.

"Cancer in particular is a subject typically off-limits to men," says Kirkpatrick. "It's something we just don't talk about. Men seem to have a sense of invulnerability."

ACS experts say it's all too easy for men to pretend a problem doesn't exist. It's even easier to ignore a problem that may have no early warning signs.

Sharing a message of hope

Kirkpatrick and other prostate cancer survivors say they are on a mission to share a message of hope. He is one of several cancer survivors featured on a special 10-minute video, " "Cancer: Real Men, Real Stories, Real Hope," urging men to take care of themselves by adopting healthy lifestyles and getting screened for the disease.

Introduced by WMAQ-TV news anchor and cancer survivor Warner Saunders and narrated by TV's Dr. Michael Breen, the video features vignettes of task force members who are cancer survivors. They share their stories, offering hope to other men and urging them to be more proactive in taking control of their health.

Community groups and health care personnel interested in obtaining a copy of the DVD can contact Charlene Padovani, American Cancer Society health initiatives manager, at (847) 368-1166 or Charlene.Padovani@cancer.org.


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