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Meet Phil: Conquerer of Prostate Cancer & Mount Kilimanjaro

Iora Primary Care is celebrating Older Americans Month with senior Stories of Strength. We are sharing these stories from our patients to offer hope, share their wisdom and connect one another virtually.

Follow #StoriesofStrength on Facebook and Instagram to see all of the featured senior stories.

During this time of uncertainty in the world, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate the wisdom and words of our older adult patients who have lived through other hard times in their lives. We think we can learn a thing, or ten, from them. Enjoy!

Meet Phil. A prostate cancer survivor. He is helping us kick off our senior Stories of Strength, Iora Primary Care’s celebration of Older Americans Month. 

“May is Older Americans Month. I’m an older American named Philip Miller. Some people might say I’m over the hill, on the downhill side of life. If you’ve ever gone down a steep hill, however, you know it’s not as easy as it may look. It’s hard to control your momentum. It can make your knees ache. And whoever said it would be a straight, smooth path? Seems to me it’s full of zigzags, twists, turns, humps, bumps, and barriers!

When do you become an “older American” anyway? Medicare says age 65. AARP says 55. By the time I reached 55, I’d already been through prostate cancer. Yes, a few years earlier. It wasn’t easy. First came the diagnosis. “Bummer,” I said. I had planned to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa that year.

Phil Miller stands at the Sequoia National Park trail crest sign

So, my urologist explained the options and the likely outcome of each one. Also, I checked with other doctors—personal friends and relatives—who confirmed what the urologist said. Treatments have come a long way in the past 20 years, but for me, at that time, the best option was radical surgery.

“I guess Kilimanjaro’s out of the picture,” I said to the doctor, more as a question than as a statement. He shrugged. “Maybe.”

After the operation, as soon as possible, probably sooner than advisable, I got out for a walk once or twice a day. No more than half a mile at first. Then I discovered the relief of exercising in a swimming pool. Before long, my walks got longer, and then I got to the gym and did what I could.

Yes, you’re right. Four months after the radical surgery, I stood on top of Mount Kilimanjaro, nearly 20,000 feet high. Maybe I was the first to reach the summit wearing a Depends, but I did it.

Now, my point isn’t to boast, but to testify about the possibility of navigating the zigzags, twists, turns, humps, bumps, and barriers we meet on this downhill side of life.

I have had a few more surgeries since the one I just described, and I hope I never have anymore; but if I must, then I’ll have to figure it out when the time comes.

Most recently, it was my knees. Instead of surgery, I started doing some exercises, and then taking walks, longer and longer distances, on a trail with ups and downs and rocks and roots. Sometimes my knees ache, but my legs are regaining strength to support them. No more marathons for me, and no more high mountains, but I’m still kicking!

You know, when I grow up, I want to be still growing, still a learner, confident, respected, and socially useful! The way to achieve such goals is to take a big, deep breath and go for it, step after step.

How about you? I hope “Older Americans Month” gives you encouragement, resources, and hope for aging well!”

-Phil

To read more inspiring senior stories, visit our Stories of Strength.

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