'Timing is everything in life'

Barb
Barb Sweet
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Peter Dawe reflects on the health scare that derailed his political run

Peter Dawe isn't saying he'll never pursue politics again, but it's not his priority now and he's glad he withdrew from the provincial byelection race in Topsail this year.

"Looking back, it was the right decision for me and my family and to concentrate where I was going first and foremost," Dawe said in an interview.

Peter Dawe isn't saying he'll never pursue politics again, but it's not his priority now and he's glad he withdrew from the provincial byelection race in Topsail this year.

"Looking back, it was the right decision for me and my family and to concentrate where I was going first and foremost," Dawe said in an interview.

"The one thing I did learn: if you want to get into politics, you'd better be ready to give it 100 per cent and be focused on it."

Hours after the date of the byelection was announced, Dawe - the Liberals' star candidate - withdrew for medical reasons.

After an anxious four weeks waiting for test results, it turned out his worst fear - cancer - was unfounded, and he is on medication for a prostate condition.

The single father's priority these days is making a living - he's a senior consultant with Planning Resources Inc.

His health scare re-emphasized how important it is for people to be vigilant about their health.

Dawe, the former executive director of the provincial chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society, was an outspoken advocate for patients, particularly the breast cancer patients affected by a testing scandal at Eastern Health.

The election - prompted by Elizabeth Marshall's appointment to the Senate - went on to be a landslide for former Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer and spokesman Paul Davis, who was also deputy mayor of Conception Bay South.

"Timing is everything in life, in so many things ...," Dawe mused.

"And at the time, I lived in that particular district and Elizabeth Marshall resigned. There was a vacancy. I had been thinking about politics. The timing seemed wonderful. But my prostate had other ideas."

Dawe had just wound up his career at the cancer society after a dozen years. He'd always been vigilant about getting screened for prostate cancer - his father had his prostate removed 40-50 years ago without being tested for cancer, his uncle had prostate cancer and his mother died of breast cancer.

Knowing some doctors are hesitant about pushing testing and that men often don't insist on it, Dawe has always requested periodic digital rectal exams and a controversial screening test that measures prostate specific antigens (PSA).

He'd also had a prostate infection in the past and was familiar with the symptoms.

During a physical exam, his doctor was concerned that his prostate didn't feel right.

"We started checking, did a series of blood tests and my PSA level kept doubling every three or four months - a really bad sign that something's going on," Dawe recalled.

He started on antibiotics and got referred to a urologist. Soon, his the PSA level had doubled again.

Dawe asked the urologist what it could be if it wasn't an infection.

"He said, 'There's only one thing it can be - you know what,' " Dawe said.

"So that was at about the same time I was making my career move and I was thinking about politics. It happened right at the same time with the byelection, and it just blew me away. My mom had passed away from cancer. She had been diagnosed when she was 49. I was 49."

Dawe said he pushed hard to get seen and to find out test results, and the weeks of waiting struck a chord he'd heard from others.

"I had talked to so many people and they had said it to me - and obviously I listened to them and I believed them - 'the hardest part is waiting for the result.' And I totally get it now. ...The longer it went on ... and you still don't have a result, it just starts taking over other aspects of your life. It starts consuming you ...," Dawe said.

"I got two teenagers. ... You feel almost impotent in some way, because it's like you're waiting for this big decision to be made about your life."

He was hugely relieved when the test for cancer came back negative.

"I was extremely lucky in that way. I was quite delighted. My family was quite delighted," he said.

He urges men to pay attention to prostate health.

"If you have symptoms or not. If you've got a family history - once you hit 40, you should be insisting on regular (exams) and PSAs. And then, even without a family history, certainly when you get to your middle age - 50 and older - you should be getting it anyway."

He said the day is long gone when people can sit back and just trust what they are told.

"The truth of it is, there were mistakes made even back when. Now we know about the mistakes, so unfortunately we have got to take some personal responsibility. I know the system inside out and I still found it difficult," Dawe said.

"I fret and I still worry about the 75 per cent of the people going through that system who don't have the knowledge, don't have the acumen or they don't even realize it's a necessity to be self-active, in not just your treatment but even trying to get diagnosed or trying to get screened. We still have a long way to go there."

bsweet@thetelegram.com

Organizations: PSAs, Planning Resources, Canadian Cancer Society

Geographic location: Topsail, Conception Bay South

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Recent comments

  • Ed
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Blowhard.

  • Donny
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    Calling open line programs all day long does not, a good politician make. I'm glad he backed out when he did for whatever excuse he came up with!

  • Rusty
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Donny, you're a dufus!!!

  • Ed
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Blowhard.

  • Donny
    July 01, 2010 - 20:11

    Calling open line programs all day long does not, a good politician make. I'm glad he backed out when he did for whatever excuse he came up with!

  • Rusty
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    Donny, you're a dufus!!!