Meet Joseph Denny
& Team “Buttheads Unite”
Joseph is our 2015 Balanse Bum Run Ambassador for
St. Joseph’s Health Centre Foundation
(The name is just coincidence, we swear!)
“…You need to be part of
this campaign to save as many lives
People need to hear your story.”
Joseph has undergone seven cancer surgeries for colorectal cancer and the removal of melanoma and metastatic melanoma cancers, including several large and deep ones on his scalp, the removal of the lower lobe of his lung, cancer in the groin area, and part of his ear. He has also survived two rounds of endocarditis, which left him with some neural damage and, as a result, a seizure disorder. When people ask him about his many visible scars, he always starts out by saying: ‘Well, there was this bar in Oklahoma . . . ‘
HOME TOWN: Toronto
PASSION: Building & Renovating. Sometime soon I hope to be well enough to be able to build us another house (maybe in California this time).
BR: Can you tell us about your connection to one of our designated charities this year: St. Joseph’s Health Centre Foundation?
JD: I am a regular patient at St. Joseph’s Health Centre. All of the doctors and staff are great at this hospital. I have regular visits and follow-ups with several doctors in Oncology, Cardiology, Neurology, and ENT (for Thyroid). I have had several surgeries and numerous tests and scans at St. Joseph’s. I have become a regular at the CT Scan unit at St. Joseph’s after over 20 scans.
BR: You discovered you had Colon Cancer in 2007 by accident. Can you tell us what happened?
I was in the hospital for another extended stay to combat Endocarditis. I was on a large volume of antibiotics and I started to notice some blood in my stool. I was told that this was quite common as this large amount of penicillin would irritate the intestines to the point of noticing some bleeding. My wife requested that they do further investigation and I was sent for a colonoscopy. Dr. Bookman performed the colonoscopy on me. I was scheduled to have a Sigmoidoscopy – a short scope that is done lower down in the large intestine, as it was believed that the irritation would be found very close to the rectum. I was sedated but not fully sedated as it was only going to be a short scope. Dr. Bookman found the source of the bleeding from the irritation just as expected. At that point, a nurse entered the room to inform Dr. Bookman that his next patient had rescheduled. Since he had extra time, he asked me if he could proceed further with the scope, beyond the original plan. He did and after a few minutes he found a large cancer tumour. I had surgery two weeks later. I was very fortunate that it was detected when it was as it was very close to spreading.
I will always remember this incident and ask myself, “What if the next patient was ready for his colonoscopy and I was sent to the recovery room before discovering the cancer?” “What if Dr. Bookman, after finding the irritation as expected, did not ask me if he could look further?” “What if Dr. Bookman had any other reason to spend a few minutes doing some other important work rather than continuing to do an unscheduled colonoscopy on me?”
I am alive today because of the knowledge and skill and great caring of Dr. Bookman. I am alive today because he discovered this cancer just in time. I am a firm believer in having regular colonoscopies.
BR: In light of this incredible twist of fate, what message do you want the world to know about Colon Cancer?
JD: Everyone needs to know that early detection of colorectal cancer can save their lives. It is important to educate everyone on the need for regular screening. I was fortunate enough to have a colonoscopy performed on me for an entirely different reason when Dr. Bookman discovered that I had colorectal cancer. Early detection of this cancer saved my life and is the key to beating this cancer.
BR: Do you have a personal mantra?
JD: I constantly tell myself that I have a lot to live for. I keep repeating this phrase in my mind during every surgery, every test, every scan and when I am having a ‘bad’ day. I want to spend as much time as possible with my wife and daughter. I tell myself that I want to live to be the oldest person alive. I want to live to be over 112 years old. Life is filled with too many wonderful things not to do everything in your power to prevent, detect and correct medical problems.
BR: What do you think will encourage more people to participate in colorectal screening?
JD: I believe that people need to understand that they have an amazing opportunity to survive colorectal cancer if it is detected early. A colonoscopy is not as intrusive as people may think. The preparation may be a little inconvenient for some people, but as long as you keep a good magazine in the washroom everything else is easy. The process is so simple and safe and it does not hurt. The staff and nurses in the prep and recovery room are wonderful at easing any of your worries. During the procedure you are sedated enough to have a gentle nap and when you wake up in the recovery room they even give you a free apple juice. How can you beat that?
BR: How would you characterize Sarah’s running skills on a scale of Homer Simpson beginner to Tazmanian devil speed demon?
JD: My daughter ran her first 5K last summer and has embraced a healthy eating and living lifestyle. Her running skills are still closer to the beginner end but she is doing amazingly well. I am able to walk only short distances due to several other health issues.
BR: If your bum could talk, what would it say?
JD: “If you want to continue to sit on me then you must promise to look after me and have regular screenings”.
BR: You are officially a citizen of #BumNation. Is there anything you want to say to prospective Bum Run recruits?
You need to be part of this campaign to save as many lives as possible. People need to hear your story. I tell almost everyone I meet that having a colonoscopy saved my life by detecting it early (well, I do not tell them this story during dinner).