Survivors Become Part of the Brady Mission
Two men, living on two different coasts, total strangers who may never meet. And yet, they are linked forever. Not just as members of that "reluctant brotherhood" of men who have had prostate cancer, but as prostate cancer survivors who have become part of the mission here at the Brady.
Something remarkable happens here, something hard to put into words, to many of the men who walk through our doors. Their journey starts with the diagnosis nobody ever wants to hear: "You've got prostate cancer."
Many of them get this unwelcome news in another city, a distant state, even another country. They start looking around, exploring, reading everything they can find, trying to figure out the best course of treatment, looking for the best doctor, and the right hospital. Many of these men find Hopkins —and Hopkins finds them —at a point of soul-searching, when everything suddenly shifts into sharp focus, when life and loved ones are suddenly more precious than they ever realized, when they have many more years of living to do, and they don't want to lose a single minute. They come to Hopkins, and fortunately, the vast majority are cured of their cancer.
Many of these men find Hopkins
—and Hopkins finds them —at
a point of soul-searching, when
everything suddenly shifts into
sharp focus, when life and loved
ones are suddenly more precious
than they ever realized, when
they have many more years of
living to do, and they don't want
to lose a single minute.
Now, here's an amazing thing: Just when you'd think these men would want to run screaming from the world of prostate cancer, never to have to think about it again, to get back to normal life and pretend this brush with disease and uncertainty never happened — instead, they get involved. They donate their tissue and blood samples to the Brady's vast storehouse for further research. They help other men and their families — by listening, offering advice, a shoulder to cry on, words of encouragement, prayers. Many of them help financially, too, supporting the scientists and clinicians at the Brady who are working to cure this disease, and to make life better for the men who have it.
Two of these men are Don Clark and Chris Evensen. Don lives in New Jersey, Chris in California. Don and his wife, Becky, were planning to move across the country in February, 2009, when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Then began what he calls his "due diligence," his quest for what to do next. "My first step was to search out the very best surgeon I could find in the field. I discovered that the best was Patrick Walsh." The sale of their house fell through, and Don and Becky took a week on a lake with their two Siberian Huskies to reflect and pray about this "whirlwind of issues. It became clear what the decision was, and that it was meant to be that we were not to move and that God had opened the door to the best surgeon and the best hospital in the country."
Chris Evensen had lived for years with the acute knowledge of prostate cancer that only comes from seeing someone die of it. His father died of the disease in 1984, and his father's father had died either of prostate or kidney cancer. Worried that he might have inherited the risk of prostate cancer, Evensen had his PSA tested yearly; when it went up dramatically, from 1.7 to nearly 4 ng/ml, he underwent a biopsy, which was negative. Another biopsy six months later found cancer; an MRI also detected a suspicious growth on his left kidney. Evensen began talking to doctors, and decided to come to Hopkins, where Walsh would take out his prostate, and urologist Louis Kavoussi would remove his left kidney. He had both operations during the same week in March, 2004.
Just when you'd think these
men would want to run
screaming from the world of
prostate cancer, never to have
to think about it again, to get
back to normal life and pretend
this brush with disease and
uncertainty never happened
—instead, they get involved.
As he recovered, still in his hospital gown and pulling his IV pole with him, he wandered around the Brady, out of the hospital floors and into the research areas, where he ran into Walsh, he recalls. "We started talking about the research being done at Hopkins." Evensen made contributions to the Patrick C. Walsh Prostate Cancer Research Fund, to Don Coffey's professorship, and has established the R. Christian B. Evensen Professorship, which will support work in both prostate and kidney cancers. "I saw it as my way that I could help further the effort."
Still, he wanted to do more. He got involved with Michael Milken, a prostate cancer survivor who started the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and joined that group's Board. In 2006, he joined the Board of Trustees for Johns Hopkins Medicine; he also serves as Chairman of the Johns Hopkins Prostate Cancer Advisory Board, and a member of the scientific advisory Board for the Patrick C. Walsh Prostate Cancer Fund.
In addition to his longstanding relationship with Walsh, Evensen now works closely with the Brady's Director, Alan W. Partin, M.D., Ph.D., with whom he actively manages the Prostate Cancer Advisory Board, and works to promote the Brady Institute Internationally. He also helped develop a project plan for work on Temperature Enhanced Metastatic Therapy (TEMT), working with Hopkins scientists Robert Getzenberg and Don Coffey, in partnership with the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Safeway. Evensen and his wife, Felicia, have even hosted dinners for Brady faculty members.
" We all have the ability to make a
"We all have the ability to make a difference here," he says. With prostate cancer, "there is an awesome opportunity to at least get this disease into a chronic state. I'm not sure there will be a cure in the next five to 10 years, but we can get it to a point where it kills much fewer men than it does today." Evensen and his wife have three sons, his brother has two sons, and his sister has a son. "We're trying to educate all of them," he says, "and I intend to support the Prostate Cancer Team, as we identify and implement technologies to stop or slow down prostate cancer, so that my sons or grandsons will not face the same challenges that I did."
Both Evensen and Clark have become advocates for men with prostate cancer, in addition to supporting the work here at Hopkins. "I try to be a resource," says Evensen, "try to remove the fear of prostate cancer. I think for most men, it's a scary process. Having been through it, I try my best to help them through."