Rick Dancer is a storyteller. It’s his passion and his talent.
But in January of 2010, Rick’s own story took a life-changing turn when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
He had already been through some tough times prior to his diagnosis. After 20 years in broadcast journalism, he’d quit his job as a high-profile TV news anchor and made an unsuccessful run for the position of Oregon’s Secretary of State.
“I felt like I’d lost a lot,” Rick says. “I’d given up, and fought and lost, fought and lost. So when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I was so afraid of losing again.”
Rick shared his cancer diagnosis publically and here on our website. He hoped that by telling his own story, he would be helping others. He says he was more afraid of the treatment process and how his life could change than he was of dying from the disease.
“Suddenly everyone is telling you that you could have erectile dysfunction and incontinence. There was nothing positive about what I was hearing.”
So with the help of his wife, Kathy, Rick did what he’s always done as a journalist when trying to find clarity on a confusing topic—he began to research his options. It was through that research that he discovered a treatment called Calypso, a technology that precisely targets the cancer with radiation, while minimizing damage to healthy tissue.
A new perspective
Reflecting on his journey, Rick’s made some important discoveries that he now shares with other men going through prostate cancer.
“I tell them cancer has been the best thing that’s happened to me. I’ve learned more about myself—who I am, and most importantly who I’m not. I think cancer teaches you to be fearless,” he says.
“When my family thought they were going to lose me, I saw them step up and love me in ways I would have never otherwise seen. That was a gift.”
Be aware of your body
Before Rick was diagnosed, he had regular check-ups. It was during those check-ups that Rick’s doctor noticed his PSA levels were steadily rising, even though biopsies found no cancer in his system.
“Women are so much more in tune with what’s happening with their health, and I think, as men, we’re not. We don’t talk about prostate cancer or testicular cancer, because we don’t want to deal with that,” Rick says.
“Men frequently ask me what my symptoms were, but I didn’t have any symptoms. I’m fortunate that, due to my family history, I started getting checked early. If I hadn’t, I probably would have had to have surgery or a different treatment. I had options, because it was found early.”
You are your best advocate
Rick’s experience with cancer wasn’t easy. He was scared. The journey was both emotional and overwhelming at times.
“As a reporter, I was always digging for information for other people. But when it came to my cancer, I kind of shut down for a few days; it was my wife who got on the computer and started digging for information. When I was ready, I got involved and became my best advocate.”
Rick advises men to ask questions, get second opinions, and find out what treatment options are available and what’s involved with each before making a decision.
Cancer is a family affair
Cancer may seem like a personal disease, but Rick quickly discovered it’s not.
“When you get cancer, your whole family now has cancer. Everything you go through, your family is going to go through in a different way that still impacts them deeply,” he says. “If I had known that, I would have done things differently with my wife. I wanted to take my cancer on as a man and say, ‘I don’t want you to be troubled with this, I’ll take care of it,’ and I left her out of the process a lot. She wanted to be involved.”
Lessons learned from cancer
Cancer has given Rick a new perspective that has forced him to see his life in a way he never did before.
He continues to do what he’s passionate about—sharing people’s stories through his television/video production business, Rick Dancer Media Services—but cancer, through all of its ups and downs, has magnified the important moments in his life. He’s not just living anymore. He’s living out loud.
“Cancer allows me to step out of myself and look at the world as it’s happening around me,” Rick says. “Things make me cry more. It’s not that I think I’m going to die. It’s not that at all. It’s that I appreciate the small things more now than I did before. I thought cancer was going to haunt me. Instead, it’s blessed me.”