In His Own Voice: His Journey with Prostate Cancer - Malcolm McKay

April 12, 2020

(Length of Interview: 7 min)

Malcolm McKay, a former school principal from Rochester, Minnesota, sits down and shares his prostate cancer story. Understanding his family history of prostate cancer led to Malcolm's participation in a clinical trial before ever being diagnosed.

1. How did you go about making your treatment decision?
2. Did you feel that you had an adequate understanding of all the pros and cons of each treatment that was available to you?
3. Is there anything that you would do differently in going about making your decision if you were to do it again?
4. Looking back, what advice would you give yourself as a newly diagnosed cancer patient?


Malcolm Mckay - Prostate Cancer Advocate

Read the Full Video Transcript

Malcolm McKay: I'm Dr. Malcolm McKay. I'm a former school principal from Rochester, Minnesota. The reason I'm here today is Dr. Ryan asked if I would do this and I was more than happy to comply because I have a lot of years and experience with this whole business of prostate cancer.

Well, when I was first diagnosed, I was living in Rochester, Minnesota. As most of you know, Mayo is located there. But prior to that, I'd been in a study with Mayo on a drug that they were experimenting with, and I wanted to be examined regularly because I have a family history. Father, grandfather, brother, my dad's brother, many people who've had prostate cancer. So living in Rochester, when I heard about this study, I wasn't involved in the study as much as I wanted to be examined carefully because I probably knew what was coming up.

Well, luckily we live in modern times because a hundred years ago all of this would be academic and I probably wouldn't be here. But back to the question, what you do is you go to the brightest minds that you can find and you choose your surgeon carefully who's had a lot of experience and you put your trust in that person because you don't have any way of dealing with it yourself, and you just proceed like that. If that doesn't work, and in case I had surgery, it didn't solve the problem, so then you move on to radiation a couple, three years later. That didn't solve the problem completely, either. They were experimenting at that time with something called cryoablation or "freezing surgery", so I went through that procedure because hey, if that's something that might get it, we'll proceed with that, and so you just keep trying to do the best thing you can. I am 21 and a half years off. I'm one of the luckiest men in the world. Sit here and say you just keep trying. Don't change your lifestyle. Keep active. Keep moving.

We're just starting up here. I was with Dr. Weight up here for a few years when we moved to the Twin Cities, and then just recently he suggested I meet with Dr. Ryan. So one of my first big meetings with Dr. Ryan is coming up and we'll be making a lot of decisions at that time. But he's a bright head because we've studied a lot about him, and so we hope to make things that prolong my life, and if it doesn't, hey, every blade of grass and every jackrabbit and every tree and every human being has a life cycle and I've extended my life cycle for a long time, but I'm going to keep trying to extend it.

Because I had such a family history of it, I understood it early on that this could very well happen to me, and I made up my mind a long time ago ... my wife and I picked up our philosophy of life out of the BC comic strip about 40 years ago. He climbs to the top of the mountain and asks the guru, "What's the meaning of life?" And the guru said, "Doing stuff." Now as trite and as silly as that is, there's a big meaning there, is continue to keep active musically, theatrically, educationally, all, everything you can do.

And so my wife and I have concentrated on being very, very active. We go to music things all the time. I'm leaving this conference early this afternoon because I have a bluegrass jam this afternoon. I'm not going to miss that with all due respect for these bright minds that are downstairs. But you got to just keep moving ahead because we all get to do the same thing in the end. Why don't you have as much fun as you can while you're there? Now that may seem trite and irreverent, but no, it's not because you have to keep focusing on moving ahead.

Not change a thing, because some may hint that I am avoiding dealing with the issue, and I certainly am not because in the middle of the night you deal with the issue and then go back to sleep. So I wouldn't change a thing. Just keep doing stuff as trite as that sounds.

No, because we examined our ... the medical community carefully and every step along the way thinking we chose the brightest, the most competent, the most experienced person that we could find to deal with my particular problem, and so when you do that, you have a comfort level that they didn't skip class on the important factor that you might need out of it and that they will help you. That's exactly ... I'm using weed, did you notice that? My wife and I made all of these decisions together.

We got 60 years coming up here in a month or so. And luckily you stumble in blind when you're young. My wife and I have had one of the most amazing relationships you can ever imagine doing everything together, including National Park Rangers together. She taught physics in Rochester, so we had a wonderful career there, and then we had a second life, and now we've been in retirement about, oh, 16, 17 years. Again, we keep doing stuff going the South for the winter or we keep studying and learning. In St. Augustine, Florida, they champion that there's a spring that'll give you extra life. No, what gives you extra life is lifelong learning.

We lean on each other. She's had a few physical things, but not much, and we just take care of each other from morning until night, and we joke about it when you're in your early 80s that you get up in the morning and let's have another cup of coffee together this morning. Isn't that wonderful? And then about five o'clock, let's have a cold beer together. That's our life. That's oversimplification, but we do a lot of things.

Stay positive, and when you get down, if you can't get back up, get some help in getting back up and then keep doing things or even doing things more often than you did. If you went to theater a lot, double that. If you went to musicals or you go to outdoor concerts, double that. Keep busy. It helps the whole process of getting through what we're all dealing with.