There was his friend, Frank, who he was expecting, and a reporter from the Orillia Packet and Times, who he was not. They handed him the paper, hot off the press. On the front page was a large picture of Colin, smiling and waving at the Huronia Ride for Dad in June. Above it was the headline: Citizen of the Year.
Colin was stunned by the honour, but ask anyone in Orillia’s prostate cancer community and they’ll tell you it was a long time in coming. For almost 20 years, the 81-year-old has been a dynamic crusader for prostate cancer awareness, support and research for a cure. He was also an early supporter of the SABR Trial, urging Ride For Dad to become a funding partner so that Canadian men could have access to the innovative treatment.
“It’s startling how things have changed. When I got diagnosed in 1999, surgery was fairly well the only treatment option that would be discussed,” says Colin. “If someone had said to me that you don’t need surgery, they’ll insert little pellets directly into the prostate with radiation in them, and they’ll target where the tumours are, and that has a 96% cure rate, I would have laughed. How would that be possible?”
While Colin credits the ingenuity of investigators like Dr. Andrew Loblaw and research funding from groups like Ride For Dad, he himself has been part of that wave of change. Recognizing that stigma was putting men’s lives at risk, Colin began a prostate cancer awareness group almost 15 years ago. In the early days, around 30 men and their wives might attend. As Colin invited noted researchers and doctors to present, the numbers began to rise. Now, up to 100 people regularly come out to the meetings.
For the last 13 years, Colin has also been helping to organize and promote the Huronia Ride For Dad. More than $1 million has been collectively raised over the years.
“I used to ride a motorcycle but not anymore,” he says. “With my problems and at my age, you don’t ride a motorcycle. My wife doesn’t even like me driving a car!”
Colin is going into his 18th year of living with prostate cancer. Though he has seen many advances, he wants research to figure out how to prevent prostate cancer altogether. “For those who are now getting prostate cancer, I am comfortable that there are many options for treatments that will cure them. But I want to see research go way beyond that. I’d like to see it not even existing.”
As for his becoming Citizen of the Year, Colin is still getting used to the attention. The week before learning of the honour, his younger brother, who had also battled prostate cancer, passed away. “It’s always pretty stunning when your younger brother goes. I was dealing with that when people were congratulating me on the Citizen of the Year award. I guess surreal is the word,” he says. His daughter in Toronto sent congratulations by way of three big boxes of sugary treats from the famous Mariposa Market. At the time of this interview, Colin was down to his final pie.
“I’m lucky. I am in my eighties and I’m still active,” he says. “I remember my oncologist asking me directly, ‘What do you expect from treatment?’ and I said, ‘Normal life expectancy for a male.’ She said, ‘What is that?’ I said, ‘82 years.’
“I will be 82 in a month and a half.”