Writes Ron Telpner, Mo Bro since 2007:
I was one of the original mad men. You know, the infamous three martini lunches, all the toys you could possibly think of, fast cars, a cottage up north and traveling the world. Big clients with big wins. The kind of life many people might want.
But on September 7, 2010, none of that seemed to matter quite as much. I could tell by the way my doctor was looking at me when I went in to get my test results. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was like an out of body experience. I know he’s saying that, I know he’s talking to me, but it didn’t feel like it was meant for me. It was only after I talked to my family and told my mother that I cried. I felt sorry for myself. I’m a good person, I take up causes, I support many charities, and give generously of my time. And suddenly, I really didn’t care about that next ad. It didn’t matter anymore.
I met with my doctor to discuss the best course of action and decided on active surveillance. For 21 months, I adopted a healthier lifestyle instead of going with surgery or radiation. I took care of my body and worked closely with my team of doctors, nutritionists, and supporters. It wasn’t about fighting with cancer, it was learning to live with cancer. After two years, my biopsy results showed I had more cancer than what they originally assumed and at a higher grade than they originally thought. My doctor said I needed to take action. I put my trust in him and agreed to have a radical prostatectomy—the complete removal of the prostate through laparoscopic surgery that lasted close to six hours.
I remember checking my email the day after my surgery only to find 300 emails showing love and support for my journey. I had Mo Bros and Mo Sistas reaching out to tell me that they were there for me, to provide encouraging words. With stories of survivors and people with similar experiences, Movember helped me get through. It made my journey less scary. It showed me I wasn’t alone.
Looking back at my life before and after I was diagnosed, I realized that the cancer empowered me to take much better care of my body, the way I should have all along. It encouraged me to make better-informed decisions about my health, reduce stress, and lead a more balanced, healthier lifestyle.
When I think about my years in advertising, the anguish I felt when I’d lose a big client—I would think it’s the end of the world. But it wasn’t. I’d wake up and I was good and I was still getting dressed up for work and I’d find another client. Life is like that but cancer is different. You can’t rewrite the script. You can’t go back or change course and not have the cancer. I still face health challenges but make every day a good one. So my journey now is this. My journey is to be the same person I’ve always been, with dignity, and now to help others through this journey. I think what cancer has done for me is to allow me to be myself, but only better.
First published in Movember Australia