One in three people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Most people miss an opportunity for early detection, and successful treatment, because they fail to schedule annual visits with their doctor.
The most dangerous is malignant cancer, meaning it has gone beyond the original site and moved on to other parts of the body.
A benign tumor is cancer caught early and has not spread.
Much has been written about Telluride native Johnnie Stevens. He’s the local boy done good. Having served honorably in Vietnam and then with the Pentagon, he came home to work the mines. In the early 70s, he was a founding member of Ski Patrol, and in the summer worked trail crew. His ability and friendly nature took him through the ranks of Telluride Ski and Golf Co., to the top. All who know him will tell you that they know where this man stands. He’s opinionated, intelligent and caring. A few years back, we saw him represent the owners of the Valley Floor, and he’s still out there in the San Juans photographing our mountains, and always remaining dedicated to his wife Dorothy.
What you may not know is that cancer took two swings at him. Telluride Climb boardmember Jamie Intemann, a melanoma cancer survivor, talked with Johnnie, for the first in a series of interviews with Telluride region residents who are working with the Climb.
At age 50, Johnnie’s wife, Dorothy, encouraged him to visit a doctor for a physical that led to a diagnosis of prostate cancer.
Like most of us, he had put off getting physicals over the years. And because it was, then, common for men to first have their prostate checked at age 55; today, a prostate-specific antigen test is first recommended at age 40.
Johnnie was doubly lucky: Had he waited until he was 55, his cancer may have become incurable.
Early detection saved his life and gave him choices, and Stevens got opinions from several doctors, who all came to one conclusion: He needed surgery.
Today, 12 years have passed, but Johnnie visits his doctor for annual check-ups, and he has this to say: “There is no excuse not to get your prostate checked for cancer once a year.”
Johnnie got lucky again, just last March, when, on his regular visit to his doctor, he was diagnosed with melanoma, a dangerous type of skin cancer.
Stevens says that for most of his life, he didn’t apply sunscreen. Nor does his family have a medical history of cancer. But living at altitude exposes us to harmful UVA and UVB sun rays, and a spot had formed on his forehead.
When Johnnie looked in the mirror, this cancer was literally staring him in the face. Once again, he was lucky. “I’m blessed, in a way,” Johnnie says today, because “if the mole had been anywhere else,” it would have been out of sight and “out of mind.”
Johnnie’s story is one we all need to hear often: Annual check-ups (and early detection) are critical to halting the spread of cancer.
And so Johnnie challenges the extended Telluride community to look after each, the way Dorothy looked out for him.
“The goal is to get 100 percent cancer awareness in Telluride,” he says, an awareness “that should ripple through this community and into the rest of the United States. It’s not only incumbent upon people to take care of themselves, it’s incumbent upon them to build a network of family and friends, holding each other accountable for their physicals.
“Thank God I had Dorothy,” Johnnie Stevens says, urging everyone to “care for the ones you love.”
To that end, he suggests this: Form a network of three or more people,” and get loved ones’ checkup appointments set.
“It’s not just your life on the line.”
Contact the American Cancer Society for more information at 800/227-2345, or visit www.cancer.org. Contact event chairman Tim Cannon at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 970/728-2136.