Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Surviving Prostate Cancer – Harry Samelson – still shooting par golf

Who ever thought that scoring high on a test would indicate failing?

For Harry Samelson taking a test in his early 50’s and scoring in the low 2’s was passing, but when he took the same test last May and scored a 5.8 it was troubling.

Samelson took a PSA test as part of his regular blood test; this test is based on a 1 to 10 scale.

“The reason doctors do this test as a matter of routine is because literally 70 percent of all males in the US will, before they die contract some form of prostate cancer,” Samelson said.

Since prostate cancer is very slow growing, people in their 70’s and older often will outlive the growth of the cancer, according to Samelson.

But in Samelson case he was immediately referred to Queens Hospital for a biopsy.

“The biopsy showed that I had an aggressive form of prostate cancer and I needed to do something about it immediately,” Samelson said.

It was a scary time for Samelson and his reaction was twofold.

“First of all, I was overcome by a feeling that I was going to be fine, that it was not my time yet.  I cannot explain this except to say that my belief in God brought me a sense of peace and being taken care of,” he said.

“The other thing I did was to seek out support even though I was embarrassed to do so,” Samelson said.  “I emailed all my friends and family and told them what was going on, and that I had cancer.”

Samelson decided to have surgery to cut that cancer out of his body.

“The surgery went beautifully and it was a robotic surgery, where the doctors don’t actually perform the surgery, but robot arms do, and it was very non invasive” he said.

They removed the prostate and Samelson was out of the hospital the next day.

The night of his surgery at NYU Hospital there was a hurricane and the hospital need to be evacuated.

“It was a zoo,” Samelson said.  “The nurses were screaming at the doctors and vis-versa. I had come 7,000 miles to have surgery in a hurricane!”

Samelson was one of 15 patients that stayed at the hospital overnight, but they got him out of the hospital the very next morning.

“Two days later the surgeon called me and said the post op biopsy of the prostate came back and it was much worse than the original biopsy showed,” Samelson said.  “I am sure I would have died if I hadn’t had the PSA test in May and that is the message that I would like to pass on to your readers.”

Samelson had always been an avid golfer throughout high school and college.

He was the number 2 golfer on his high school team but didn’t blossom in the sport until he turned 18 when he won the club championship at Muttontown Golf Club on Long Island.

He attended Bates College and play four years of varsity golf while becoming the number 1 player on the collegiate team.

“During my sophomore and senior seasons I was the number 1 golfer for Bates and during my senior season I won the state individual championship and our team won the State Championship which became two of the biggest highlights of my golfing career,” Samelson said.

Golf is clearly Samelson true love and he continues to play at least twice per week up at Volcano Country Club.

“My buddy Jack Christenson and I go up at the crack of dawn and are the first ones out and the first ones done,” Samelson said.  “We’re back home (Kapoho) at 10 am and the workers at the club don’t know my real name, they just call me ‘speedy’.

A month ago Samelson got a hole in one with a 6 Iron on the 170 yard, 6th hole.

“I was blessed to get my second hole in one with my first coming on the third hole at Volcano,” Samelson said.

As for changes in lifestyle Samelson admits to being sober and not a big sweets eater.

“I did cut out caffeine which the doctors told me to go off for three months after surgery,” he said. 

Samelson was asked to cut caffeine because it becomes a bladder control issue that prostate surgery patients have.

“Once I quit caffeine I never started up again,” Samelson said.  “I watch my weight and I jog everyday for about three miles.”

Samelson message here is to get the PSA test from age 50 on.

“Being a cancer survivor changed my life, it changes my sense of invulnerability as your desire to live for today is heightened,” he said.  “My belief that God is there for me through everything is stronger than ever.  So I live more for a love of today, with a sense that I could go at any time, but that will be okay no matter what.”

Samelson turns 55 in two days, July 18.  Happy birthday Harry and may you have many more!

And on Saturday should you happen to see many other cancer survivors along with the Big Dog doing laps around Francis Wong Stadium as part of Relay for Life remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”

July 16, 2012 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Samelson Stays in shape with Golf

Harry Samelson practices his golf swing

Harry Samelson practices his golf swing

     I remember growing up in Kalihi, on the island of Oahu, and trying to compete for my father’s attention along with my three other siblings.

    One thing that got my dad’s attention was my love for baseball.  My dad was a St. Louis Cardinal fan and he worshiped Stan “the Man” Musial.  I could recall getting the sports page each morning and thumbing through the St. Louis stats to see how “The Man” did the night before so that I could update his seasonal batting average and get it to my dad before anyone else.

   My relationship with my father, during those youthful days, was special because of baseball and it is one of the fondest memories that I hold of him about him since his passing eight years ago.

   Such was the case with Harry Samelson who fell in love with his father’s special sport, the game of golf.

   Samelson grew up in Wantagh, New York on Long Island near Jones Beach and the ocean.  “I started playing golf at the age of six because my dad loved the game,” he said.

   “My dad wouldn’t let me out on the course until I was six because he didn’t want me getting in peoples way when I was too young,” he said.

   “Our whole house was carpeted and I used to putt all around the house, down the stairs, under and through furniture, making up my own putt putt course as far back as I can remember.”

   Samelson fell in love with the game of golf, but more importantly he found the way to bond with his father which has made for lifelong happy memories.

    “I was taken with the game from the first second I picked up a club,” he said.  “It was when my dad bought me a child’s set of clubs, you know, the ones with the plastic heads and plastic balls to hit.”

Harry Samelson
Harry Samelson

Samelson picked up various sports in his youth which included tennis, softball, basketball, soccer, street hockey, running, bowling and, of course, golf.

    “I was on the high school golf and bowling teams and when I attended Bates College I played four years on varsity golf,” he said.

    Samelson was the number two player on his high school team and didn’t blossom as a golfer until he was 18 when he won the club championship at his father’s club, Muttontown Golf Club on Long Island.

    In college Samelson played as the number one golfer during his sophomore and senior seasons.  “During my senior season at Bates I won the state individual championship and our team won the State Championship which became two of the biggest highlights of my golfing career,” he said.

   Samelson had played golf on such notable courses as Pebble Beach and Winged Foot and even went to Augusta National to see the Freddy Couples win the Masters that year.

   “Seeing Freddy Couples win the Masters was the number one golf highlight of my lifetime.   Augusta National is one of the most beautiful places, much less golf course, I have ever seen,” Samuelson said.

   Samelson is the President of Charles Samelson, Inc., a textile firm that manufactures and distributes interior decorative fabrics.  The firm is headquartered in New York with a warehouse and shipping facility in South Carolina.

   “I spent my whole life in New York City until 2004 when I moved to Kapoho.  The sun and sea are both very healing and important to me,” he said.  Samelson serves as the President of the Kapoho Community Association.

    Two times each week Samelson will head out to Volcano Country Club with his buddy Jack Christenson were they will play a round of golf.  “We get there about 6:30 in the morning and we’re always the first ones to tee off.  We play two hours and it’s a blast,” Samelson said.

   Samelson, who is a scratch golfer, will play on his own once per week and can get through the 18 hole course in about an hour and twenty minutes, but enjoys the companionship of playing with others.

   “The maintenance guys at Volcano have named me “speedy” as I’m always hitting though them,” he said.  “We shaka each other and smile.  It’s really nice because the course and the people who work there are really low key and down to earth.”

    Samelson best round at Volcano is a 65 and his only hole in one came on the third hole last year. 

    Samelson wakes up at 3 a.m. each morning when playing golf and at 5 a.m. on his off days.  Each morning he spends time stretching before going out on a two mile run.  Later in the day Samelson will go out for a two mile walk.

   “Exercise is important to me for many reasons,” he said.  “First, I get a great rush from the endorphins released from running.  Speed golf also gives me that same rush.”

    “I love the challenge of golf particularly and the singular battle you have with yourself to beat yourself, and to conquer a game that is unconquerable.  I don’t bet with people or play matches.  I play to beat the course and stretch my abilities to their maximum,” Samelson said.

    Samelson will also watch what he eats as he is very careful about his weight.  “I’m not happy when my clothes get tight and I also have a mildly high blood sugar, so I eat no sugar and very few carbs,” he said.

   “I believe that life is a journey and that is what counts the most.  For me today, it’s all about nature and the very special spirituality that exists on this Island.  It’s been my goal to get into the flow of what goes on here at the spiritual level,” Samelson explains.

   “I don’t let negative things get to me.  Learning to do this has helped me do better on the golf course.  Anyone who plays the game knows what I mean,” he said.

    Exercise, diet, positive spiritual attitude all leads to a better golf game for Harry Samelson and a better life given to him at an early age by his father.

August 3, 2009 Posted by | Health and Fitness | , , , , , | 2 Comments