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Four Words You Never Want to Hear

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Like my father before me, and my grandmother before him, I am a person of words.

I went to journalism school. I write for a living, whether it is copy for an ad, a speech for a client or an opinion piece for a magazine. I love words. I love the architecture of a well-written paragraph. I get joy from seeing just how magical a turn of phrase can be.

I am 60 years old and a lot of words have crossed my lips, crossed my mind and ended up on a page, in an ad, or as a quote. Like I said, I love words. I have a decent command of the English language and understand the tremendous impact words can have and just how engaging a story can be.

But I never imagined the impact it would have on me of hearing the four words strung together by my doctor on September 7, 2010.

Those words were "you have prostate cancer".

I think he said a few more words after that, but I am not sure I heard them. The one thing I was clear that I heard was, you have cancer! Holy shit! Me? The fun loving, well dressed, articulate ad man? Me?

Then he said something about let's just watch and see what happens. Did I just hear him say you have cancer and we'll just watch and see what happens? I couldn't believe it.

I left the doctor's office in a complete daze. I thought for sure I would dodge a bullet, yet again.

Sure my PSA numbers were slowly climbing over the last two years, but I had changed my diet, took supplements, cut down on my drinking, had acupuncture to ease the pain of 20 years of arthritis, rode my bike, swam, rowed, spent time in my infra-red sauna and meditated, albeit sporadically.

I guess I was in shock. I felt light headed. Of course I could remember exactly what I was wearing that day although the meeting remains a blur. So what was I supposed to do, now that I had cancer? I did what came naturally. And I went back to work.

I needed to send out a couple e-mails and participate in a conference call. What was I thinking? Dazed and confused, I was thinking cancer could wait because I had some other things to do!

It was about two weeks later that I actually sat on my dock at Lake Miskwabi and let the tears flow. It was really the first time I wept about the situation I now found myself in. But I don't want to get ahead of myself here.

From September 7 on, I did my best to stay in control and hold back tears as I relayed the news to my family and close friends that first week. The response was universal. They thought I should get another opinion, that I should take action immediately, that I should seek out other experts, that I should talk to a friend of friend, that I should see a doctor they knew about and on and on and on!

I was upset, confused and frightened.

Then I did my homework, as I listened to the experts.

Want to know more? Follow my journey on the Huffington Post.

Ron Telpner is Chairman and CEO of The BrainStorm Group, an international ad agency in Toronto.

Around the Web

Prostate Cancer Home Page - National Cancer Institute

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