Larry Ramsey became emotional when he thought about the support he received during his battle with prostate cancer.
There's a “daylight and dark” difference when people are there to help and offer encouragement, said Ramsey.
Ramsey is a pharmacist at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Union County. Employees at the hospital are like family, and others who had been through prostate cancer helped Ramsey through his journey.
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
It was helpful having someone to call on as he dealt with the highs and lows of the illness and recovery.
“Recovering from surgery was a very difficult time,” Ramsey said. “You've got to give your body time to heal. While it's healing it's a very difficult time.”
Talking to others who had been through prostate cancer helped Ramsey in terms of knowing what to expect. He would have had a much harder time without that support, and now he may be able to do the same for someone else in the future.
Ramsey, who is married with two children, also had lots of support from his family, church and fellow employees at the hospital.
“I had wonderful support,” said Ramsey, adding that he could not have made it through the illness without all the encouragement he received.
Many people helped keep his spirits up and gave him the strength to do what he needed to do as he battled prostate cancer. He noted that waiting on the results of medical tests can be a very tense time and knowing that people were praying for him and having his family by his side made it all bearable.
Ramsey found out he had prostate cancer last year shortly before Christmas when he was 58 years old and said, “Anytime you have cancer it changes your outlook on life. When you get hit with that news it's pretty devastating.”
Ramsey said he now feels great and that he considers himself cancer free after the surgery, which removed the prostate.
Ramsey underwent the robotic surgery in Birmingham, Ala. in February and said it was a success. Fortunately, the cancer had not spread to other parts of Ramsey's body and his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests have come back clear.
He is very glad his prostate cancer was detected early through a biopsy and said he is a “big believer” in preventative medicine.
Ramsey strongly encourages people to take advantage of the annual Baptist Memorial Hospital health fair. He said he does not think he has missed one of the health fairs over the years and had his first PSA test when he was 39. He just turned 59 this month.
“I owe my life to the health fair,” said Ramsey.
He could be in a different place right now if he had not undergone screening and caught his prostate cancer early. His PSA tests originally showed normal levels. But that later changed, and he got a biopsy, which showed he had prostate cancer.
“It's pretty bad whey they tell you you've got cancer,” he said.
But it was good that the cancer was found early enough to give Ramsey positive prospects for treatment. It made him feel better that something could be done, but there was always that fear that he might not make it.
“There's always that possibility . . .,” said Ramsey.
Thankfully, Ramsey is basically back to normal and tries to lead a good, healthy lifestyle. He enjoys walking, wood working and photography and is back at work at the hospital.
“It's a very good feeling when you get your lab work back and it's zero,” he said.
He will celebrate his 35th wedding anniversary in December. His son is in his first year of emergency medicine residency at the University of Cincinnati and is married to a pharmacist. Ramsey's daughter is at the University of North Alabama completing her degree in cinematic arts.
The most precious things in his life are his family and the ability to enjoy life. Now he is looking forward to many more years.
Ramsey did not have any symptoms of prostate cancer and also did not have a family history of the illness. His mom passed away with breast cancer, and his dad had lymphoma.
He and his wife were scared when he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer. Having cancer changed his perspective as a health care provider by allowing him to better understand what patients go through.
“I think everyone here at our hospital is very compassionate,” Larry said. “People here love taking care of patients.”
Ramsey has always been a model of good health at the hospital while at the same time making the best homemade ice cream. The fact that Ramsey is a health nut and still got cancer shows that anyone can be affected.
When he was first diagnosed and started telling people he had cancer, Ramsey was amazed at how many people had a connection with prostate cancer.
That is why Ramsey is such a big advocate for health care screening and taking advantage of the hospital's free health fair. The health fair provides free screenings for cholesterol, blood glucose, blood pressure, triglycerides, bone density, PSA and kidney function. And free flu vaccines are also given.
Attending the health fair is important but does not take the place of a yearly physical exam by a doctor, said Ramsey.
Any information that people can get about their health provides them a leg up when it comes to prevention, Ramsey noted.