Patrick Slevin loves a good challenge. In 1996, at the age of 27, he took on a political challenge and was elected mayor of Safety Harbor, Fl, the youngest GOP mayor in the nation at that time. His professional career has taken him to the offices of corporate leaders all over the nation to assist in strategizing solutions to the organizational challenges they face. He’s a motivational speaker, a team building trainer and communication expert. He’s also an athlete who has overcome some of the toughest challenges a body and mind can endure by participating in extreme events like the 2014 Peak’s Death Race.
But just a few months after the grueling Death Race, at the age of 45, he was given a diagnosis of prostate cancer, perhaps one of the biggest challenges of his life. During a routine exam the prior year, Mr. Slevin was told that his prostate was enlarged and a family history of the cancer meant his physician needed to keep a close eye on any changes. By October of 2014, a PSA test revealed an elevated level of prostate-specific antigens in his blood, and a biopsy two weeks later was positive. The cancer was throughout his prostate and his urologist told him treatment needed to start right away.
"He wanted me to start treatment immediately and said if I didn’t, the cancer would kill me," recalls Mr. Slevin. "But I’d been in training for the OCR (Obstacle Course Race) World Championship, which was just three weeks away and was more annoyed than anything that I might not be able to participate." On his way home from the appointment that day, Mr. Slevin says he felt fortified by his faith and life philosophy. Ultimately, he felt more determined than ever and knew he would take on this new challenge with the same commitment and focus he’d used to meet all of his previous endurance tests in life.
Mr. Slevin started his cancer therapy at the Capital Regional Cancer Center just before Thanksgiving 2014. It began with a hormone treatment aimed at blocking testosterone (which literally feeds prostate cancer cells) followed by 45 intensive radiation treatments that would push him to train even harder for what would be his toughest endurance race ever. "There’s a lot of fatigue that comes with treatment," said Mr. Slevin. "But I kept working out daily and began eating healthier, cutting out red meat and pork. I knew the hormone blocker could cause me to lose lean muscle and gain body fat, particularly in the belly. I was able to minimize my weight gain and keep most of my muscle." Mr. Slevin finished his treatment on February 2nd and on the 15th of that month, participated in a 50-mile marathon in Destin.
Mr. Slevin’s positive outlook and commitment to keeping his body as healthy as possible during the treatments was an inspiration to others at the Cancer Center. He’d show up for his appointment in workout clothes so he could hit the gym following his radiation. He inspired patients and staff simply through his attitude. While he was fighting his own battle, he made a point of talking with his fellow patients at the Center to support their journey as well. But to the rest of the world, Mr. Slevin kept his cancer diagnosis a secret. "I only told maybe ten people that I had cancer," he said. "I didn’t want the drama. But later, after my final treatment, I had an epiphany — I realized I was doing a disservice to others with this diagnosis. God blessed me with prostate cancer and part of the blessing is helping others through their experience."
Mr. Slevin is grateful to the staff at the Capital Regional Cancer Center. "The Center has three qualities that affirm my belief this is a center that is good for patients," said Mr. Slevin. "Competency, compassion and the character of the people who work there are the foundation of the treatment offered to patients." Now he’s working with them to use his experience and communication skills to help others through a new program called "Guy Talk."
"Guy Talk" is a support group just for men who have had a prostate cancer diagnosis. The first meeting was held on August 20th at Capital Regional Cancer Center. "I discussed the idea of Guy Talk with Dr. Tim Bolek, my radiation oncologist and Medical Director of the Center. He liked it and we hope it will be well received and become a monthly meeting." Mr. Slevin points out that the meeting is ’just for guys,’ so participants feel more comfortable talking about their own personal issues associated with prostate cancer. "Cancer is a horrible thing," says Patrick. "But there are a lot of things we survive in life. I consider myself a life survivor, not a cancer survivor. Hopefully Guy Talk will help other men with their journey of survival as well."