8 hours, 10 Jellyfish Stings, and 23 kilometers later…
When he told me the name of his toy manufacturing company was called, “Hot Buttered Elves,” I was intrigued.
WARNING: do not attempt this without training.
6 months before swimming 23 kilometers in the Mediterranean, Dan Garr, 57 and toy inventor, was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer, in December of 2021. Instead of succumbing to the waves of meeting one’s fateful mortality, Dan fought even harder to persevere from Italy’s coast to the shorelines of Elba.
I’ve got to last long enough to see my kids get married.
Dan’s bloodwork reported a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) level of 9.5, while experiencing symptoms of gout—arthritis, which causes inflammation of joints due to excess uric acid. The average PSA level is 3.4, according to Dan’s testimonial, which is on par with what the National Cancer Institute discloses, it’s closer to 4.0.1 PSA is a test men should receive on their regular check-ups, or if they want to get screened for prostate cancer. It is an indicator that cancer could be present in the prostate.
Dan was motivated to deeper levels of determination he said he didn’t know he had after the news of prostate cancer sunk in. As a long-distance ocean swimmer, he regarded his physical conditioning as a means to mentally plunge forward.
It’s a fight, it’s a battle. Just go for it.
The 23-kilometer swim across the Mediterranean was scheduled for July 3rd, 2022, and Dan continued to train 3 hours every day swimming the Californian currents while looking for a care team.
However, during this time of searching, Dan’s PSA levels unexpectedly went from 9.5 to 13.2; an indication the cancer was progressing fast, and he needed to pursue treatment sooner rather than later.
On June 22nd, 19 days before his European swim, Dan was scheduled to have a prostatectomy at Saint John’s Health Center under the care of Dr. Timothy Wilson, whose calendar was booked out for months, but miraculously an opening cleared for Dan’s surgery. Dr. Wilson is the Professor and Chair of Urology and Urologic Oncology, as well as the Program Director for Urology and Urologic Oncology Research Center of Excellence at Saint John’s Cancer Institute.
Finding Dr. Wilson took Dan months of weighing his options, “after interviewing 5 different hospital’s teams…Saint Johns was a no-brainer…it was a seamless level of care and attention.”
“8 hours, 10 jellyfish stings, 23 kilometers,” and one prostatectomy later, Dan Garr triumphantly confirms a 0 PSA level, which was ascertained on August 4th, 2022.
Listen to Dan Garr candidly talk about his cancer journey and his swim across the Mediterranean
Side Effects of a Prostatectomy
While still gaining his ability to control his incontinence, one night in Italy before his swim, Dan’s son cracked a joke during dinner where Dan unapologetically left a wet pool on his seat- a moment Dan regaled with exuberant laughter, “what could I do?” Dan with a keen sensibility, whose decisions have kept him grounded, who still laughs and jokes about life’s unexpectedness, would not let the temporary effects of his prostatectomy deter him from enjoying the moment.
In his testimonial, Dan addressed the realities of having a robotic assisted prostatectomy (removal of the prostate); Urinary Incontinence (UI) and Erectile Dysfunction (ED). He advised, “If you can take the cancer out, take it out.” Dan humbly captivated the importance and uncertainty men have to face regarding the existential circumstance that comes with deciding to have a prostatectomy: am I going to lose my ability to have sexual intercourse and be an intimate being? The quick answer is, probably not (age and prior health conditions are a factor). Three weeks after his surgery, Dan’s ability to control urination fully came back, and according to Dan, his ED should start to resolve itself as well, within a year or less. Symptoms such as UI and ED are normal and can be resolved. UI and ED are the result of the nerves at the base of the prostate healing after a prostatectomy which require time to revive.
Dan disclosed that the decision was his as much as his wife’s; both agreed a prostatectomy would result in the best outcomes for them and the family, regardless of intimacy. Dan’s resolve was observed when he candidly shared, he had no regrets and is grateful to his wife, whom he declared is his soulmate.
A Lesion On the Rib
Even though Dan reported a PSA level of 0, he still has to be treated for the lesion on his rib. He posited, “they still don’t know where that came from because cancer can move through the body without affecting the lymph nodes.”
DAN’S DOCTORS RECAP HIS CONDITION: Listen to Dr. Timothy Wislson and Dr. Przemyslaw Twardowski recap Dan’s complex case.
They saved my life, there’s no question about it, and they did it in a way that makes me want to live stronger.
Advice to those going through prostate cancer
Dan mentions that swimming definitively helped him get ready for surgery, “you just fight, to gain extra days, hours, whatever it’s going to take.” He adamantly believes and recommends staying fit, and working out will improve one’s recovery time, and how well one does with surgery, ” I think it needs to be talked about.”
Clinical Trial for Prostate Cancer Patients
The clinical trial will evaluate the effects of mushroom tablets on 2 different groups of prostate cancer patients.
- Patients with recently diagnosed, low-risk prostate cancer that does not require immediate therapy with surgery or radiation.
- Patients who had prior therapy for prostate cancer with surgery and/or radiation and now have evidence of cancer recurrence based on rising PSA blood test, but have no visible metastases on imaging scans.