Sunday, February 9, 2003

Crowley, Portune show healthy attitude

David Crowley strides across the room, the picture of health. Trim, with cheeks reddened by the chill outside, he slides into the booth and orders oatmeal for breakfast. His cholesterol and lipids are enviable.

He feels great, except for a lousy head cold. Couldn't be better, he says.

Except for the cancer.

"I feel great," he says. "And that's kind of scary. I don't know how long it would have been until I felt the symptoms." The Cincinnati city councilman was diagnosed with prostate cancer toward the end of last year. A suspicious PSA test in November was followed by a confirming biopsy in mid-December.

Air of defiance

He practiced in the shower. How to tell his kids. What to say to everybody else. It took him a couple of weeks just to convince himself. "I couldn't say David Crowley and cancer in the same breath for almost a month. It scared me to death." And this is a man who ducked sniper fire in Bosnia during a relief effort there in the mid-1990s.

Cancer. He says it now with an impressive air of defiance. And he has done the homework, with the help of his wife, Sherri.

Prostate cancer, he lectures, is the second-largest cause of cancer death among men, exceeded only by lung cancer. One in 106 men ages 40-59 gets it and 1 in 8 men 60 and over. The American Cancer society suggests the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal examination (DRE) yearly, beginning at age 50. Men at high risk, such as African-Americans and men with fathers, brothers or sons diagnosed at an early age, should begin testing at age 45.

Councilman Crowley and I each pay for our own breakfast, but the price for rummaging around in his personal life is for me to say that guys ought to have this test done. "Honestly. I never would have guessed that I had it," he says. Scheduled for a radiation implant later this month on a Friday, he expects to be back to work the following Monday.

"I'm very much in the game. A player," he insists. Optimistic. Busy.

There's a lot of that going around lately.

Hamilton County Commissioners met last week at Drake Hospital. Commissioner Todd Portune has been there for physical therapy since surgery Jan. 14 to remove a noncancerous tumor from his spine. "This absolutely does not, will not, is not affecting my job," he says.

He left Drake on Friday, saying "I'll be back at work in a wheelchair." He says he's been told by doctors and therapists that he can probably expect to be out of the chair in six months or less. "I can move my legs now," he explains. "I just don't know where my feet are without looking."

No big deal is his attitude. "You can let things like this define you," he says. "You can shrink from it or you can decide you're going to get on with your life. I expect to be 100 percent, whether I'm in a wheelchair or not."


And Crowley and Portune have a tacit message that applies to plenty of other people out there battling illness.

Don't count them out.

E-mail or phone 768-839.

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