Rodney C. Miller, 53
Prostate Cancer - Diagnosed 2008
My cancer story: In January, 2008, I was celebrating 20 years sober as a recovering alcoholic. And then in February, 2008, I had my first surgery ever as a doctor fixed my WPW syndrome. That is when your heart zooms up to a high level of beats and will not come down. Mine had gone up over 250 more than seven times over 2.5 years. I had been on meds that did not work so well. They finally burnt out the offending short circuits in my heart and all was great there. I had zero heart damage, the doctor said because I ran up hills constantly on my trails at Barkcamp State Park. The first time it happened, I was way out in the woods, and it took three hours to get to the ER with a heartbeat of over 250. The only things that saved my life were running and grace.
In the fall 2008 at my yearly checkup, my family doctor (Fausto Lazo) told me my PSA was too high. He sent me to a urologist for further testing.
The urologist used an experimental method of checking for cancer in my prostate, pronounced me fit, and told me to come back in six months. I wanted to believe him as I had recently completed my first marathon and was feeling pretty good about my health.
When my family doctor heard this, he did not agree and sent me to a different urologist. He did the traditional biopsy method and determined that I did have prostate cancer. Don't hesitate to get a second opinion is the lesson to be learned here, I think.
From there things went fast. I was sent to see Dr. Merrick. He told me he could fix me with the radioactive seeds and all would be well in a short time. It is an outpatient procedure and was done on a Friday, and on Monday, I was out running again as he said the more oxygen you get in your system the better off you will be. He said he sends his patients he fixes to the gym and he told me because of my conditioning I would heal up fast.
My PSA has been dropping ever since as they say it should. Eleven months after they put the seeds in me, I ran a trail marathon at Burr Oak State Park. I also completed a trail ultra (50K or 31.2 miles) at Salt Fork State Park in 2011.
The toughest time of my recovery happened three months after they put the seeds in me. George Kellas, a cancer survivor and good friend, had his cancer return and died. I had sprained my ankle at work, could not run, and had a horrible cold and we lost George all the same week. He had told me I would be fine when he knew his time was short. He was a great guy. He gave all he could to make the OV a better place, and he is a big inspiration still in my life.
I have been co-director of The Barkcamp Race since its inception in 2005 which benefits our local State Park every October. In 2012, we started a race in Bethesda which now benefits the SPII Task Force which helps keep our kids safe from online predators.
I am on the board of the Ohio Valley Runners and Walkers Club, the Health Plan Grand Prix Advisory Board and a member of Bethesda Village Council.
Besides trail running, I enjoy riding my Harley with my wife, Denise, shooting targets, reloading ammo, photography, gardening and working on the house.
I love to share the message of physical fitness and how good preventative care saved my life twice before I was 50. Go get your check ups and find a doctor you trust and listen to them well. I tell everyone you do not have to be crazy enough to do what I do, but please, please find that exercise you enjoy and stick to it.
Caregiver shout-out: My wife, Denise, took great care of me. My son, Justin, and my daughter-in-law, Leila, are always there for any reason I need them. Dale Landefeld took me to the doctor when I needed a way several times, and he and Cindy Foose would never let me even consider staying on the couch. Dale is not even a hardcore trail runner, and he ran with me in the snow on the horse trails many times that first winter after the implantation. The OV Runners and Walkers never lets a member down when it comes to helping them keep their head up in bad times. There are more people than I can count there who were precious to me then and still.
Message to newly diagnosed and patients in treatment: It is not the end of the world (but it is probably the scariest thing anybody ever told you). Look upon it as something you want to beat and don't give up. It is just another log to jump on the trail run of your life. Get off that couch as soon as you can and live every minute. You can win!! And let people help you! You can't do this alone. Then go out and help someone else! You might be the inspiration they need to get through a rough day.
Lessons learned on your cancer journey: Keep up on your checkups and live every minute of every day to the fullest, for you really don't know how long you will be here. And that exercise does matter and makes a difference for sure. I had been doing it for the peace of mind, and it helped save my life and helped me heal. Give back all you can to the world because it gives you so much.
For several years Rod and his runners group put on 5Ks to benefit the American Cancer Society and Relay For Life. Rod will also participate in the GLOW 5K benefitting Relay For Life of Belmont County on Aug. 24 in St. Clairsville. If you are interested in how you can join the fight against cancer, participating in the GLOW 5k, or you are a survivor and would like to be added to the Relay For Life mailing list, please contact Chelsea Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888-227-6446 x3206.