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

Retired Waiakea High english teacher, Corliss Yamaki, is a cancer survivor

“Don’t put food in your mouth, if you have food in your mouth” are words that Corliss Yamaki tries to live by.

For years Yamaki has struggled with the ups and downs of weight and with it the battles of good and bad health.

Yamaki was born and raised in Hilo and is a 1961 graduate of Hilo High School

“We just celebrated our 50th class reunion last October,” she said.  “I’ll be turning 69 in July.”

In 1992 Yamaki noticed one of the warning signs of cancer and was given two biopsies before being diagnosed with bladder cancer.

“I was stunned because I didn’t fit the profile, which was white male, middle aged, overweight, heavy smoker and heavy drinker,” Yamaki said.

In fact, the only thing that matched Yamaki’s profile was being overweight.

At the time Yamaki was an English teacher and she waited until the end of the school year to schedule her surgery.

“My son was graduating that year from Waiakea High School so I waited until the end of June to go to Queens Hospital to have my surgery done,” she said.

Yamaki was one of the lucky ones as the post-op biopsies revealed no cancer cells anywhere in her lymphatic system.

“The doctor told me I was cured and I had no radiation, no chemo,” she said.  “I just had to have scans and sonograms every six months for the next 5 years.”

Yamaki was back in school the fall of ’92 and took with her a ‘souvenir ostomy’ as a results of her ordeal.

“It’s almost like having a prosthesis and it takes adjustment, mainly in attitude,” Yamaki said of her ostomy.

As a result of being a diabetic Yamaki found herself with numerous side effects, mostly infections.

“I’m not on insulin, but being diabetic just complicates things,” Yamaki said.

Following her surgery Yamaki began to gain more weight as she didn’t want to strain her body, especially her mid section.

With the weight gain also came an increase in her medications, not only for the diabetes, but also for hypertension and cholesterol.

What changed everything for Yamaki were regular exercise and an awareness of what she consumed.

“I joined Curves and worked out three times a week,” she said.  “In 2007 I joined Weight Watchers because HMSA offered a deal where it would pay for the initial fee and three sessions.”

Yamaki, with diet and exercise, began to see a change in her health and became encouraged in the progress she made.

“I found myself simply doing it and I was in control of how much and what went into my mouth,” she said.  “I ate lots of vegetables and fruits that I liked and minimized the carbs and meats.”

It was during these transition days that Yamaki became extra motivated with the upcoming wedding of her son.

“I decided I didn’t want to wear a tent to my son’s wedding, so I worked harder at losing weight,” Yamaki said.

“It was during this time that I also resumed hula at the Kamana Senior program,” she said.  “In all, I lost nearly 40 pounds.”

Yamaki is the first to admit that weight continues to be a struggle for her as she is on a ‘rollercoaster’ ride in the endless battle to stay healthy and fit.

“I wish I could say that I’ve reached my goal, but I still have another 30 pounds to go,” she said.

Yamaki has made other changes in her life, postponing hula while adding Golden Zumba to her weekly schedule.

“I work out less at Curves and have added Zumba twice a week which gives me a good workout each time,” Yamaki said. 

Due to her bad knees she has decided not to run/jog, but has added walking to her routine.

“All in all I feel pretty good,” she said of her weekly exercise routine.

Yamaki has also learned quite a bit about eating.

“It’s all about portion control and making good choice,” she said.  “Weight Watchers advocates no deprivation, just common sense.  If you can, use chopsticks when eating as you tend to eat smaller bites and portions are slower.”

Yamaki has decided to take control of her health and in the process has lost 40 pounds which has made a difference in her life.   She no longer needs many of the medications she was once on and has reduced the strength of other medications.

With age, other health issues have cropped up in her life and she is discovering that diet and exercise does make a difference in life.

“With age comes other health issues, so while my original medications have lessened or been discontinued, I’ve had others prescribed for different conditions,” Yamaki said.

Yamaki has made enormous strides in taking better care of herself, but none of this came overnight and she still has a way to go in accomplishing all her goals.

“If you don’t do what’s best for your body, you’re the one who comes up on the short end,” Julius Erving said.

And someday should you happen to see a tall, thin, nearly bald stranger jogger around the back streets of East Hawaii remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”

June 4, 2012 Posted by | Former Waiakea High Teacher | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment