Our Place’s Grant McKenzie speaks out about prostate cancer diagnosis

Our Place's Grant McKenzie speaks out about prostate cancer diagnosis

WATCH: Homeless advocate Grant McKenzie is fighting an advanced form of prostate cancer after being refused a PSA test two years ago. Tess van Straaten reports.

Grant McKenzie is well known for his work at Victoria’s Our Place Society but in addition to his day job helping the homeless, the former journalist is also a successful novelist who’s published 10 books.

“I think I’ve been very fortunate in my life and I’ve had a really wonderful life,” McKenzie says.

But now, the 55-year-old is in the fight of his life — battling an advanced stage of prostate cancer.

“I was shocked because I just didn’t have that family history or didn’t have those high-risk factors you look for so it never occurred to me cancer would actually touch my life,” says McKenzie.

But despite not being high risk, McKenzie tried to get a PSA test — a simple blood test for prostate cancer — two years ago but he says he was turned away because he didn’t have any symptoms.

“It was one of those boxes I wanted to tick off and say it’s clear, great, let’s move on so I was really surprised when I was turned away,” the husband and father says.

McKenzie pushed harder this year and got the test but now, the entire prostate is compromised and has to be removed.

“I feel upset about that because here’s a very, very simple test, it’s not an expensive test, and why they wouldn’t do it?” McKenzie asks. “I don’t understand that. Two years ago it would have been caught at a much earlier stage.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix wasn’t available for an interview on Friday but the ministry says routine PSA tests, and even annual physicals, aren’t covered by MSP.

Health officials say PSA tests have a high-number of false positives, especially for men under age 55, so they’re only covered for those who meet specific criteria.

The standard early detection method in B.C. is a digital rectal exam, which should be done annually for fit men age 50 to 70 during a doctor visit, and is covered by MSP

McKenzie’s going public with his experience to help others and he’s hopeful he’ll be cancer-free after his upcoming surgery.

“This will be a life-changing surgery as it will affect my life in a big way but it shouldn’t be a life-ending surgery,” he says

In a Facebook post announcing his diagnosis, McKenzie also had some good advice for others that included wear great shoes because life’s too short to be bland, being kind, counting your blessings and driving a convertible because it makes you feel alive.

For more information on prostate cancer, click on this link to the Island Prostate Centre.

Free PSA testing will also be available at the Country Grocer Men’s Health Day on Sept. 8. 

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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