Senior athlete says competing helped him beat prostate cancer

Senior athlete says competing helped him beat prostate cancer

- Life has thrown a lot at Tom Russell lately. 

And, each time, the 72-year old Masters track and field athlete picks it up and tosses it back,

"I do the hammer throw, shotput, disc, javelin and then weight throw,” Russell says.

Three years ago, at 69, Russell had something big tossed his way, prostate cancer.

"It was something you're not prepared for, really,” he says.

His doctor diagnosed Russell with an aggressive form of the  Russell took a few minutes to let the news sink in, then sat down with his wife.

"And immediately,” he says. “I began to think about, ‘What do I need to do to get well?’"

Russell's urologist recommended a radical prostectomy:  robotic surgery to remove his entire prostate gland. 

But, the doctor warned, there was a chance that microscopic cancer cells around the prostate cancer might get left behind.  But Russell figured this was his best chance of beating the cancer.

"And within two weeks, I'm back playing tennis,” he says.

For two years, Russell had regular blood tests to check his PSA, a marker for prostate cancer.

And, for two years, it was normal.

Then in February of 2016, his PSA jumped, and by May, it had jumped again, a sign the cancer was back.

That's how he ended up here with Wellstar radiation oncologist Dr. Justin Hart.

"If there are cancer cells that have come back and are hiding there, radiation may be able to get rid of them.,” says Hart.

Dr. Hart recommended Russell undergo targeted radiation to destroy any remaining cancer cells in the area around where his prostate gland used to be.

"If you go in early and radiate that area, there is a better chance now than if you wait 2 years, 3, years,” says Russell. “And I'm all for going with what are the better odds."

"He came in over a course of 7 weeks,” says Dr. Hart. “And was with us for about 15-20 minutes and we really kind of treating that area where his surgery was performed."

We caught up with Russell on his last day of radiation.

"It felt great,” he says.  “I went around and high-fived all the techs."

And throughout  the cancer, and the surgery, and now, the radiation,  Russell pushed himself to stay active.

He believes competing gives him an edge, on and off the field.

"Everybody is going to have barriers, everybody is going to have a hurdles,” he says. “How you get over that hurdle is important."

So, yes, Tom Russell says, he's had to take on cancer not once, but twice.  But he's still standing.

"Hey I'm going to fight it to the day I can't find it anymore,” he smiles.


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