Richard “Dick” Hurkman
Treated by The Michael D. Wachtel Cancer Center of Affinity Health System
Dick had gone to his general practitioner for a cough. His doctor noticed he had not had a check up in some time and at age 57 he had never had his PSA checked or an exam. After receiving the necessary blood tests, Dick received “that call.” The physician’s office wanted to refer him to an urologist for a biopsy. They determined he had prostate cancer, 80% on one side and 30% on another.
“It was beyond watchful waiting,” Dick said. “You’re never happy to hear the word, ‘cancer’, you cry, you grieve, get angry, and question why.”
He had a tough moment sharing the news with his wife, but then determination took over. The cancer was a slow growing variety and his doctor gave him six months to make his treatment decision. Dick used every one of those days to research, learn and seek several second opinions. He was amazed that pioneers in the prostate cancer field took the time to talk to him. As a self-proclaimed “information junkie” and take-charge kind of guy, Dick wanted to speak intelligently with his cancer team.
According to Dick, “Cancer has a tendency to take everything away. For me the only way to get it back was knowledge, which gave me confidence to partner with my cancer team.”
Dick was grateful for his caring cancer team. “Miracles can happen when someone cares,” he said.
As a way to take responsibility for his diagnosis, Dick read the book his doctor had given him and then spent extensive time researching on his own. On days when curiosity would begin to overwhelm him, he would “unload” his thoughts on one-to-one support blogs with fellow prostate cancer survivors. It became important to get the negative thoughts out and talk to a knowledgeable stranger who had walked his journey. He would not seek medical advice, just share his feelings and the effect the cancer was having on his life. Dick feels this helped to clarify his treatment decision.
Dick chose to have radiation treatments; one of the best types of radiation was available in the Fox Valley at that time. He had some problems early on following radiation, but says, “It was a piece of cake!” Dick remembers lying on the radiation table singing two particular songs in his head – Sugarland’s “Something More” and Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying”. The lyrics spoke of “I need a little less hard time and a little more bliss” and “How’s it hit cha when you get the kind of news, Man what’d ya do? I went skydiving, I went rocky mountain climbing, I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu!” The music kept him determined and focused on what the radiation was for, and how he would live well afterwards.
Cancer took Dick “beyond normal.” He began to share his story with anyone he could help. He bought a special seat for his bicycle and rode to keep strong during treatment and to sort out his thoughts while he was deciding which treatment he could live with best. He also rode his bike to volunteer at The Franciscan Courts, a beautiful retirement home for Franciscan nuns. The Sisters fed his spirit and encouraged him with their prayers while he was on his cancer journey. To this day he patiently works with the Sisters who are afflicted with dementia and he says he believes he was given a gift to perhaps help repay, in some small way, what had been given so freely to him.
Life now is about enjoying time with his wife, caring for his mother, watching his PSA number and being very aware that there is “something more.”