At 69 I was diagnosed with prostrate cancer and, of course, this is the worst type of news anyone wants to hear.
At that time in my life, I was (to be honest) a bit lost and I didn't have any specific focus and, let me just say, I'm the type of person that looks for adventure and thrives on challenges. My entire life was dedicated to just that.
As an airborne paratrooper for the special forces and I was involved in World War II, Viet Nam and many top secret (spy) missions. So for an active guy like myself, I was in a really bad mental slump, then I was diagnosed with cancer! Could things get any worse? My first reaction was of course disbelief and shock but then I decided to take the cancer on, like the enemy and I was determined to beat it. My doctor suggested surgery and I agreed only if the outcome would not leave me incontinent or impotent. Needless to say the procedure (radical prostatectomy) was a success.
After the recovery period I asked my doctor (who is a black belt in karate) about exercise. He recommended it strongly. So the next day I joined a local gym and the first few months consisted of very light weight training, more of an introduction than a true workout, but I began to improve in muscle tone and strength, I felt better, looked much better and my posture was straighter. I was praised by friends and family as they all noticed the changes. They told me how I had become more alive and happier. Life was looking good, I was feeling great and thoughts of cancer were long forgotten, then WHAM! My cancer was active again. The news was disturbing but I was ready for the 12 weeks of radiation therapy, because I had come to realize I had found my focus and a purpose, bodybuilding. I regarded the radiation as a part of my bodybuilding program that would lead to success in my health, strength, appearance and self image. During the 12 weeks of treatment I did have to stop training but fortunately I didn't suffer too many side effects. I will say I'm glad I went through the treatments, but it wasn't a piece of cake.
The only thing that kept me going was my focus on my goals, which were to recover and get back to the gym again. Positive thoughts enabled me to make it because some days were really difficult and painful, while others were more tolerable. Radiation is no joke and, fortunately, I was strong enough to endure the procedure. My hope was to not only recover, but to get into even better condition than any other time in my life. I had made a commitment to a healthy lifestyle and with these goals ahead of me I was able to make it through, day by day. My doctor credited my working out to the successful result. The cancer was again in remission and I immediately returned to the gym more fired up than ever. To me this was "do or die" mission like in the army. You commit to the job and go all out or not at all. I dove in head first working out daily - I had to start slow but progressed quickly and I realized "Bodybuilding had saved my life," it was my entire focus and gave me a reason to live. I looked forward to my workouts and even the very strict diet.
One day a trainer at the gym asked me "Why are you here so often, are you going to compete?" I hadn't thought about competition but instinctively answer "Yes I am." At this point I knew I needed professional guidance so I was fortunate to find a champion bodybuilder who would train me. Dror Erez, Mr. Israel Champion who has worked with me for 1 year with his knowledge and coaching I have been able to enter four shows: 2001 Southwest National, 50 years up; 2001 Heart of Texas, 50 years up; 2001 Red River, 50 years up; and the 2002 Southwest USA, 40 years up. I am looking forward to competing in the NPC Nationals, Masters Class to be held in Pittsburgh in 2003. Competing has been an amazing experience for me which I have truly enjoyed. I get fired up for the event and I'm motivated to challenge myself in the workouts. Now 74 years old and a cancer survivor I feel better than ever. Life is good.
If I could give one bit of advice to help anyone struggling with cancer or any other life threatening disease I would like to say "Don't give up on yourself ever and it's never too late."
Ironically prostrate cancer, a horrifying and feared illness has lead me to a wonderful place, the gym and a lifestyle that's focused on health and fitness. "I'm alive today because of bodybuilding, not just physically, but mentally I'm alive and bodybuilding is my life."
John Pasco, NPC Masters Competitor
Age: 74 years old
Height: 6 feet
Weight: 155 lbs.
My Mentors: Dror Erez and Gunter Schlierkamp
Go Back To Home Page