Getting On With His Life
prostate cancer
Jean and Ian MacKechnie: Enjoying life without prostate cancer.

Recently, something happened to Ian MacKechnie that he never would have believed possible a few months ago: He forgot his Gleason score. Just for a minute, then it came back to him: 3 + 4. The “good 7.” But it had slipped his mind for the best possible reason. He doesn’t have prostate cancer anymore. It’s gone, and he is busy thinking about other things. He has his life back.

This is what we hope for, why we do what we do here at the Brady. Until the day comes when we can say, “Follow this list of things to eat and make these lifestyle choices, and you will never get prostate cancer,” the next best thing is for a man to be screened regularly — as MacKechnie was, watching his PSA for years, knowing that it was slightly elevated because he had BPH (benign prostate enlargement) — and then, when the PSA made a jump that didn’t make sense, getting a biopsy. When the tissue samples came back with a diagnosis of cancer, MacKechnie did what he always does when he tackles a problem: he learned more about it. He started reading up on this disease that had never before been on his radar screen, and he found surgeon Patrick Walsh through his book, Dr. Patrick Walsh’s Guide to Surviving Prostate Cancer, written with Janet Farrar Worthington.

“ I barely knew where Baltimore
was. I had heard of Johns
Hopkins, but purely as a name.”

MacKechnie, a native of Scotland, is a businessman and philanthropist, the founder and CEO of Amscot Financial, a chain of financial services stores based in Florida. “I barely knew where Baltimore was,” he says. “I had heard of Johns Hopkins, but purely as a name.” Yet “if you look at my copy of the book, it’s underlined, every page.” This is because as Walsh wrote about the disease that he has dedicated his entire career to preventing, treating, and curing, “he said things that, as a business person, ring true to me. I understand that this focus is the key to success.”

MacKechnie liked Walsh’s advice to patients to find a medical center where they treat a lot of prostate cancer, every day, and know how to handle highly specific complications — more so, perhaps, than a place where the guy who just got operated on for prostate cancer is in the recovery room next to the lady with the hernia, across the hall from a man recovering from donating his kidney. “I understand, as a layperson, that when you are seeing the numbers that the Urology group at Johns Hopkins are doing, not only are the surgeons extremely skilled, because they’re focused on that procedure, but the nursing staff become much better, because they know how to anticipate the issues that patients will have. There is no detail that has not been carefully put together, from the moment you arrive. It kind of makes sense, doesn’t it, — it’s run the way I’ve always tried to run my businesses. They get a great result for their patients.” MacKechnie’s Amscot stores take care of half a million customers a week, “and we try to give them in very much the same way, a very good experience.”

In those first few weeks, Mackechnie learned that his older brother, Donald, who lives in England, had also just been diagnosed with prostate cancer. After MacKechnie told his brother about the book, Donald bought one, too. “The book drove me to Dr. Walsh, and to Johns Hopkins,” MacKechnie says. He believes that he was able to get treated and recover quickly because he found a doctor he could trust. “Dr. Walsh’s commitment comes through in the book, his lifelong commitment to this whole specialty of prostate cancer. In our company, we say, when trust goes up, speed goes up. If you’re dealing with someone you don’t totally trust, it takes much longer.” MacKechnie also was troubled to learn that another friend, back in Scotland, had not fared so well after his treatment for prostate cancer. “He is cancer-free, but his quality of life is totally destroyed,” left with debilitating urinary incontinence. “That’s what happens if it’s not done well.”

MacKechnie underwent his radical prostatectomy in the summer of 2011, and regained urinary continence within two to three days. As Discovery went to press in the fall, he has started running again. “I’m back to 100 percent. It’s wonderful,” he says. MacKechnie and his wife, Jean, have given a sizeable gift to the Patrick C. Walsh Prostate Cancer Research Fund, and are the newest members of the Founders’Circle.

“ In our company, we say, when
trust goes up, speed goes up.
If you’re dealing with someone
you don’t totally trust, it takes
much longer.”

“We were delighted to do it,” he says. “Those who are able to do something should do something, to keep that legacy going. Plus, we have two sons,” and MacKechnie knows that their risk of developing prostate cancer is higher, now, because they have two relatives affected — a father and an uncle. Giving back, he adds, is “gratitude. It’s a small token. Compared to someone who has spent 30 years, and devoted his life to this disease — this is nothing; it’s only money. I am grateful to the research that Dr. Walsh has put into it, and to Johns Hopkins and the commitment to patients.”

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