Cancer is a mind game

Rich and Marion Patterson created Winding Pathways LLC in 2014 to encourage people to create and enjoy wondrous yards. More information:
Rich and Marion Patterson created Winding Pathways LLC in 2014 to encourage people to create and enjoy wondrous yards. More information:

Word this fall of Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta’s prostate cancer diagnosis brought back memories. I had a similar diagnosis over a decade ago when I was about his age. Hopefully his outcome will be as positive as mine turned out to be.

I was fortunate. My family physician, Dr. Mary Anne Nelson, grew increasingly concerned as my PSA rose. She referred me to urologist Dr. Jonathan Rippentrop, and we watched it continue to rise. A biopsy confirmed cancer in my prostate, and he presented my wife and me with options. We elected to have it removed using the then new robotic surgical method at St. Luke’s.

I missed about a month of work as my strength recovered and tissues healed. It’s been 11 years since surgery and, although there’s no certainty that the cancer isn’t still lurking in my body waiting to manifest, I’ve enjoyed good health.

My cancer is more than a physical disease thwarted or delayed by adept physicians applying modern technology. It’s also a mind game. Cancer forced me to stare mortality in the eye and live life with an altered perspective. Priorities and values shifted.

Every day, no matter how challenging, became a precious savored gift. I count my blessings while humbly respecting the many people and their families who daily struggle with the mental, financial and physical challenges of serious disease.

Since my diagnosis and treatment, I’ve tried to meet each day with a positive attitude, exercise, and healthy food. I strive to:

l Appreciate my family and the happy positive people I prefer to interact with.

l Maintain optimism.

l Practice forgiveness and humility.

l Express appreciation.

l Enjoy humor.

l Treat every living thing with dignity and respect.

l Keep moving and enjoy daily 10,000 step walks.

l Absorb the majesty of every sunrise and sunset, the stars, and the power of storms. Our world’s beauty comes daily, never expects payment, and only needs to be savored.


I have no idea where life’s adventures will lead as I approach my 69th birthday but no matter what transpires I’m going to savor each day and invite all people, whether struggling with a disease or enjoying perfect health, to enjoy the wonder of our earth and appreciate the courage, compassion, humor, and dedication that most people exercise in their daily lives.

I wish Gary Barta, and all people challenged by disease, well and encourage everyone to practice positive health habits and get appropriate medical tests. They save lives.

l Rich Patterson of Cedar Rapids is a writer and ecological consultant who co-owns Winding Pathways LLC with his wife, Marion. Comments:



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