For the last four years, Gary Swan has ridden in the Westcoast Motorcycle Ride to Live as a supporter, but this year, he’s turning the throttle as a cancer survivor.
The 58-year-old will be revving his engine this Sunday in the charitable ride, which raises awareness of prostate cancer and benefits the Island Prostate Centre. Prior to his own diagnosis, Swan said his reasons for joining the ride hit close to home.
“My dad had prostate cancer, my uncle had prostate cancer, and I always figured somewhere down the line, I was going to get it,” said Swan. “There was a good meaning there for me to do it.”
Swan learned of his diagnosis last September after attending the Country Grocer Men’s Health Day to take a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which measures the level of a protein created by the prostate gland in the bloodstream. The PSA count and any changes from previous tests can be used to indicate the presence of cancer.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, men younger than 50 should have a PSA count between zero and 2.5, while men 70 or older have a normal total PSA range of zero to 6.5. Swan originally fell within his age category’s range of zero to 3.5, but his September test showed a sharp increase.
“I phoned the nurse about three days later and she said, ‘You’ve jumped up three points. You should probably go to your doctor,’” he said. “I went to the doc right away and he said, ‘Yeah, there is a lump there.’”
Following his doctor’s visit, Swan underwent a biopsy and the urologist called him shortly after with the results.
“They took 12 cores and I thought I was only going to have two out of 12, but all 12 tested positive for cancer,” he said.
From there, Swan went to the Island Prostate Centre, where he learned about different treatments for prostate cancer such as radiation, cryotherapy and surgery.
“They just walked me through the different procedures, what my numbers meant,” he said. “Four days after that, I went back to the urologist and he said, ‘Have you given any thought to what you want done?’
“I said, ‘Yeah, get it out. I don’t want any of the radiation, just get it out.’”
Swan had a prostatectomy, and eight weeks later, he underwent another blood test, confirming his PSA levels had returned to normal. He said he can’t stress enough the importance of taking the PSA test, especially in men 40 and up and for those with a family history of prostate cancer.
“I never knew what it would be like to go through anything like that,” said Swan. “It’s all I thought about for seven or eight months.
“Men should be familiar with the signs and symptoms of it. Apparently, some men don’t have any signs or symptoms, but if you know that baseline PSA, you have something to work with.”
Now Swan is ready for the ride on Sunday, and he’ll be getting on his Harley Davidson with a different perspective than previous rides.
“It’s going to have a whole new meaning this year,” he said. “It’s a fun day and it’s all for a good cause.”
The Westcoast Motorcycle Ride to Live starts at the Ogden Point Cruise Ship Terminal in Victoria and heads north to the Viscount Aero Centre in Sidney. Riders can start meeting at the terminal at 9 a.m. with the ride kicking off at 10:30 a.m.
The Viscount Aero Centre will host a barbecue lunch and live music by The Weeds, as well as other entertainment.
To register or sponsor a rider, or for more information, visit viridetolive.ca.