When doctors diagnosed Len Gross with prostate cancer in 1992, his life drastically changed in a blink of an eye.
Because he was reeling psychologically, big plans were put on hold. Then the Burnaby husband and father underwent a surgery, leaving him permanently impotent.
It also gave him a “stress incontinence issue” requiring him to wear protective pads due to leakage.
Because of this hardship, a desire to help other men grew within him.
He is a founding member and now sits as a board member of the Prostate Cancer Foundation B.C. He is also one of the founders of the Canadian Prostate Cancer Network, the leader of the Vancouver prostate cancer support group, and at 81, takes part in the annual Father’s Day walk/run around Burnaby Lake raising funds to support and the research of prostate cancer.
As a matter of fact, he is a key organizer of the event since it was initiated 17 years ago. Though, he will pass the torch to Kevin Tam, a research scientist of the Vancouver Prostate Centre, after this year’s June 21 event.
More than $2 million has already been raised by the walk/run and have brought families together to celebrate the men in their lives. Helping other men faced the disease has helped him see a bright side of his own condition.
Counting his blessings, because his cancer hasn’t recurred, while other men aren’t so lucky. Some men become fully incontinent. And he has witnessed men who, not only battle the physical scars, but had to deal with the emotional ordeal of losing their wives due to their impotence.
As luck would have it, his marriage remained intact. He calls Lorna, his wife as “my confidante and my supporter.”
Speaking about the impact of his impotence in his marriage, he said, “It certainly made life a bit of a problem initially to try and make adjustments for the condition I was in, but we were able to cope with that satisfactorily and we are happy together. We support each other and we rely on each other heavily for whatever. We do everything together.”
If he was diagnosed today, doctor’s would not operate on him, considering his cancer was mild. So Gross has every reason to have regrets. They would, instead keep him under surveillance, avoiding the potential complications of impotence and incontinence which often follow surgery.
But he is a guy who peers on the sunny side of things, relishing the walk/run in which his two daughters take part along with a big crowd of kids, parents, cancer survivors and their supporters.