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A face off with prostate cancer


Sami Jo and Rod Small on a vacation together in New Brunswick
Sami Jo and Rod Small on a vacation
together in New Brunswick
Between facing off with Team USA in the 2002 Olympic finals, and later learning her dad had prostate cancer, women’s hockey player Sami Jo Small has encountered her fair share of challenges.

“I always try to look on the positive side, a trait I picked up from my dad,” says Sami Jo. “We both tend to stray away from focusing on the bad things. But it was tough when we found out he had cancer.”

Sami Jo’s dad, Rod Small, was diagnosed with prostate cancer at 64, shortly after retiring from his practice as an optometrist in Winnipeg.

“I had my prostate specific antigen (PSA) tested for years, and my doctor also did digital rectal exams. Eventually, my PSA numbers started to climb,” says Rod. “I had surgery to remove my prostate, but my PSA levels continued to rise. After 32 bouts of radiation, we finally learned I was in the clear.”

Now that Rod has finished treatment, he’s living a full life. “I’ve taken up golf and just love it. I hit the gym a few times a week and tend to my garden. I’m busy with my three grandchildren.”

While his treatment wasn’t without side effects that many men face, he didn’t let them diminish his sense of humour. “The worst parts were taking the staples out from my surgery afterward, and having to live with a diaper for a few weeks, and then a pad,” he says. “Which is interesting because as I get older, I’ll probably need a diaper and I’m used to it now! I wouldn’t be averse to wearing one at all. Especially at a football game or during a long flight… It’s fantastic! I recommend it to everybody.”

Rod with his granddaughter, Kensi
Rod with his granddaughter, Kensi
On a more serious note, Rod acknowledges that sexual side effects can have a serious effect on a man’s life. “I think one of the scariest parts for men is that the treatment is going to affect their sexual prowess,” says Rod. “It won’t cause you to be less of a man. For me it was a mental hurdle I had to cross – I’m going to be different now than I used to be, and I’ll deal with it.”

Rod also found comfort and support in his friends and family. “I talked to my friends a lot,” he says. “I certainly don’t keep it a secret that I had prostate cancer. My wife was a rock for me throughout the whole thing, and my son came with me to my appointments.”

Though the Small family faced the ultimate challenge in dealing with cancer, Rod still found a way to instill positivity in his daughter. “My dad’s given me an amazing gift,” says Sami Jo. “To always look on the bright side. Now, I aspire to spread that quality to other families faced with prostate cancer so they can find hope.”

Rod’s message to other men and families facing prostate cancer: “Don’t give up hope. All the little things that come along will work out in the end. Find a positive person to be with you along the way – their positivity will rub off.”
Posted: 2018-11-08 12:42:09 PM
Filed under: athlete, cancer, prostate, story, survivor


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