Bone mets from his Stage IV prostate cancer can’t keep John down!
“I feel good!” says John Wagontall. That’s significant considering he’s been facing prostate cancer since 2004 and is now battling bone metastases. Here, he opens up on the journey he’s taking with his wife, Cindy, by his side.
It’s been nine years since John Wagontall, from Alberta, Canada, was diagnosed with prostate cancer that had spread to his lymph nodes. Forced to take a leave from his job, the then 46-year-old firefighter was determined to be positive. “I’m an upbeat kind of a guy. I strove every day to find out what I could do to help myself and to learn what treatments could help me.”
Undergoing hormone deprivation therapy and radiation, John stayed active—biking, kayaking and taking long walks around the lakes near his Lethbridge home. “It never entered my mind that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do!” He even cycled across Canada in 2006 and 2007 to raise awareness for prostate cancer.
But in early 2011, John felt a sudden pain while teaching one of his sons to play racquetball. Turns out, the cancer had spread to a bone at the back of the pelvis. John tried radiation therapy to shrink the tumors and ease his bone pain, only to experience a number of rib fractures. He then started a medication that strengthens his bones. “Within two months, all of the rib fractures had healed and I haven’t had a fracture there since. The bone drug helped immensely.”
More recently, John’s undergone chemotherapy with a drug for men with metastatic prostate cancer. “Chemo is hard on your body and I was tired, but I did well on it,” he says. Today, he and his wife, Cindy, are looking forward to what seemed improbable a couple years ago: the birth of their first grandchild! “The thought of holding our grandchild —it definitely strengthens my drive to survive!”
John’s tips for thriving with prostate cancer
Exercise at whatever level you can. “It lifts your spirits and helps keep your bones strong,” says John. Even on his low-energy days, John takes a morning walk with his dog, Tessa, and an evening walk with Cindy. He also squeezes in a few exercises on his home weight machine. “I want to help keep the muscle I have as strong as possible.”
Surround yourself with good energy. John couldn’t do without the company of Cindy, sons O.J. and Brett, and his friends. “You need to absorb their energy. Whether it’s just a talk on the phone or getting together, afterwards I feel so much of the weight [of my situation] lifted off.”
Make yourself comfortable. Since John’s cancer is in his pelvis, getting a good night’s sleep was tricky —until he tried this tip. “I got a piece of sheepskin to sleep on—it takes pressure off the tender points.” In fact, it worked so well John got a smaller one to go on the seat of his truck!
Face the sensitive stuff. John says his and Cindy’s love life took a hit as a result of his cancer struggle. It was difficult for Cindy to accept, until she spoke with John’s oncologist and sought therapy.
Shed pounds if you need to. To prepare for his son O.J.’s wedding, John and Cindy went on a mission to get in shape. “I lost 30 pounds in a year,” he says. An extra benefit: “Taking the weight off took pressure off my joints. Since losing the weight, I don’t have as much foot pain.”