I Can’t Have Cancer, I’m Way Too Busy!

Chief Kanterman’s Journal Entry 45

That’s exactly what I said to the urologist on the day after Christmas, when he told me that my tests came back positive and I have prostate cancer. Actually, he said I had a “little cancer” to which I asked, “is that like being a little pregnant?” After we both had a chuckle, he started to drone on about the test results, what they mean and possible treatments. For the first 30 seconds or so, I was sitting in an echo chamber, the way they portray bad news in the movies. My gut started to turn and I wanted to hurl all over the office, my shoes and the doctor. Good thing it was 2 hours after breakfast and just before lunch. So after I came out of the chamber, we chatted for a few more minutes and he told me that he would send my samples to a genetics lab for further study. This new technology is basically able tell you if the cancer is lying on the beach having a drink or if it’s moving like a rock star. I left to go back to the firehouse and called Mrs. K on the way. We were both glad it was early and at Stage 1. Wait a minute! I’m too busy for this! I got things to do, classes to teach, trips to take, vacations to book, fires to go to and other stuff. Well brothers and sisters, life goes on “hold” for a while.

In the meantime, I had the honor of presenting a class at the FDSOA Conference in Orlando, Florida, in mid-January. So, Mrs. K and I hopped a jet from NY to FL and hit it at just the right time. We got an 80 degree week in Orlando, visited the Mouse House, the Wizarding Kid with the round glasses at Universal and did some touring and relaxing. On Friday of that week, Dr. Doom called during breakfast and said that you-know-what was rocking and rolling like Mick Jagger and the lab report noted that there was a 49% shot it was going to run through the rest of my prostate like Sherman marched through Atlanta. With that news, it was time to kick it in high gear so upon my return home, I saw the oncology guy, the radiation guy and the surgeon guy. All said that all of the options would work and suck, so it was up to me to “pick my poison.” I then laid it all out to an uncle of mine who is retired physician and he agreed that I should go to Dr. Yank-it-out and remove it. So, March 13 is the big day. Classes canceled, dates changed, things postponed, but got to get well so I can go back and do all those things I love to do. Too many of us macho type A’s have put things off and then it’s too late. In fact, a buddy mine recently had chest discomfort and went away on a golf weekend only to come back to find himself hospitalized with 4 stents inserted into this clogged arteries. We’re glad he made it. He’s a great guy and a great fire chief. He took quite a chance, don’t you think?    

Why did I just share this personal moment with you? Two reasons: 1) This was picked up on my annual fire department NFPA 1582 physical. My FD doc sent me to a urology specialist. He saved my life; 2) While I’ve been supporting the Firefighter Cancer Support Network for the past few years, I never thought I’d become a card-carrying member. I called Tony C, the New York representative and asked him to connect me with a brother who had the same surgery. I got a call in 24 hours and spoke to a brother who told me his story. I felt like I knew him my entire life. Peer support is key in any crisis. 

Main take-way: Get checked, get tested, don’t put it off, don’t be a macho dope and get your blood work done whether the department sends you or not, career or volunteer. Support the FCSN because you never know.

See you in Indy at FDIC!

Be well, stay well, be safe,

Ronnie K

This commentary reflects the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Fire Engineering. It has not undergone Fire Engineering‘s peer-review process.


  • RON KANTERMAN is a more than four-decade veteran of the fire service and recently retired as chief of the Wilton (CT) Fire Department. He has a B.A. degree in fire administration and two master's degrees. He’s a contributing author for Fire Engineering , the Fire Engineering Handbook for Firefighter I and II , and the 7th edition of the Fire Chief’s Handbook .

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