When John Sharp leaves Colorado this week for his Prostate Cancer Torch, a 10,000 mile motorcycle ride to raise awareness for prostate cancer and cross Alaska off his bucket list, he’s looking forward to one thing—“peace of mind.”
For the past nine years, John has been fighting stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer. Though he’s had some success with chemotherapies, radiation and various clinical trials, his cancer continues to advance.
In March 2003, at the age of 49, John scheduled an appointment with his physician for what he believed was a hernia. Though he had an elevated PSA screening several years prior and was experiencing abdominal pain, he didn’t expect to hear the C-word. After all, prostate cancer is a disease commonly found in men over the age of 50. John had just turned 49 a few days prior.
By the time John’s prostate cancer was found, it had already spread to his paraaortic lymph nodes. His doctor said there weren’t many treatment options that would keep him alive. He advised John to contact E. David Crawford, MD, a urologic oncologist and prostate cancer expert at the University of Colorado Cancer Center.
“When you first find out you have cancer it’s a mad dash to the internet to see what you should do,” John says. “My mad dash was to look up Dr. Crawford and make an appointment as soon as possible.”
“I was given walking papers at every other place except the University,” says John. “When I came to see Dr. Crawford he said, ‘That’s garbage. You’re young enough to fight this.”
In April 2003, a few weeks after John was diagnosed, he started treatment at the CU Cancer Center with Crawford. And despite the cancer spreading to the bladder in November 2003 and then relapsing in August 2011, John is still living life to the fullest and supporting others like himself.
At the University of Colorado Hospital, John founded and leads a monthly prostate cancer support group called Us TOO®. The group provides men and their families with peer-to-peer support so they can make informed choices about treatment options and coping with survivorship.
“I was essentially drafted by Drs. Crawford and Glode to run a support group at the hospital,” says John. “I’ve always been open and very candid about my cancer so they figured I’d be good at it.”
While the Prostate Cancer Torch is about crossing Alaska off the 58-year-old’s bucket list, it’s also about helping to raise awareness through the Prostate Conditions Education Council and encouraging men to get screened. Since John is still battling prostate cancer today, he says PSA screening is as important as ever, despite recent medical debates.
“The fact of the matter is PSA was proven for me,” John says. “It may not be 100 percent accurate for everyone but it was for me. We just didn’t catch it soon enough. People would be up in arms if we got rid of mammograms for women. For men, PSA’s are just as important.”
Like any good bucket list, John’s included skydiving. He recently jumped 18,000 feet from an airplane, which he called “thrilling.”
When mid-August rolls around John will be able to check off Alaska. But that won’t be the only check. For the next two months John will ride through Yellowstone, Glacier, Denali and Yosemite National Parks, with additional stops in Banff, Anchorage, Victoria, British Columbia; and Seattle, to name a few. His wife will join him in Anchorage and from there continue down the west coast to Carmel, Calif. for John’s 40th high school reunion.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska and now is the perfect time,” he says.