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OTHER ITA SITES:
Arnold Palmer Swings It For Cancer
From the desk of Dr Magne, author of Cancer Free For Life
For decades, Arnold Palmer’s name has been synonymous with a golf career that few professional golfers could rival. After all, few can lay claim to winning 92 professional titles, 62 of which Palmer won on the U.S. PGA Tour. But there’s more to Palmer than a killer swing. For this prostate cancer survivor, a future where cancer doesn’t kill has become a bigger goal than limitless holes in one. Palmer, renowned for his magnetic personality as well as his sportsmanship and business acumen, sees cancer as a formidable opponent—and he has spent years [and millions of dollars] to find a cure.
Palmer says his main objective is to encourage people to have checkups to facilitate early detection of cancer. “That’s the most important facet of cure,” says the 76-year-old. “You just can’t stand aside and hope that you don’t have it, and you can’t make excuses for not having yourself checked. No one is out of the woods as far as having cancer is concerned.”
These aren’t just empty words. Palmer not only survived prostate cancer, which was discovered and treated in 1997, but his beloved first wife, Winnie, was diagnosed with peritoneal carcinoma in 1998 and died of the disease one year later. His daughter Amy Saunders, now 48, was the first in the family to be diagnosed with cancer. At age 32 with four children, Saunders found out she had breast cancer in 1990.
“In my early days I was frightened of the ‘C’ word,” Palmer recalls. “It was a lack of knowledge as much as anything, but I didn’t want to even talk about it.” Now, Palmer talks about cancer all the time and says his efforts are motivated by doing what’s in the best interest of those who may be helped by prevention and early detection.
Early on, one physician gave her a 15 percent chance of surviving five years. “I didn’t want to deal with the dismal thought that my treatment might not work,” she says. “To survive cancer, you want to be realistic, but choosing to be optimistic is crucial. That was how my father handled things when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.”
When Palmer was diagnosed, he had already been a care-giver to his daughter. Still, despite the fact that he was back on the golf course two months after surgery, there was an intense amount of concern about the challenges ahead. As Saunders recalls, the diagnosis hit the family hard. “I think this was the one time I saw a little more vulnerability in my dad.” For Palmer, getting sick wasn’t an option, especially after such an esteemed golf career. “There weren’t other alternatives for him,” Saunders says. “He loved the game so much. It was his life.”
Palmer readily admits it was his late wife of 45 years (he remarried in January 2005) who helped him get through his surgery and treatment. Then, when Winnie became sick, Saunders saw her father change. Palmer began to evolve into an advocate of cancer programs supporting early detection and research. “I think he became more passionate about fighting cancer specifically because of my mom,” she says. “We both had the good fortune of having a different outcome, but when you don’t, it makes you go through different phases of anger, disappointment and fear, and that makes you want to fight it even harder and find out what you can do.”
“Communications were not as good as I felt they should be between the doctors and researchers,” Palmer says. “Now, I think that communication line is opening up. That’s one of the most important things for the prevention and cure of cancer.”
At the helm of the fight against prostate cancer, Palmer has become a beacon of hope. He not only talks very openly about his own experience with the disease, he also encourages men to get prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests and go for annual exams.
Palmer’s biggest rallying cry is to be positive, even despite a bad prognosis. “If you approach cancer from a negative standpoint, it’s going to be more difficult to return to your normal life. That positive I-can-beat-this frame of mind will go a long way.”
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