George Service could be the poster child for the Celebrate Life Fashion Show.
The event, taking place April 8 at Club Lentinas, is a fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society, but is also done to honour cancer survivors.
All models in the event have battled, or are currently fighting cancer. Each one shares his or her personal cancer journey with the audience.
For George, he has quite the tale.
“I spent 10 of the last 12 years taking care of my wife when she was in the final stages of her cancer,” he said. And in December, doctors told George he has stage 4 prostate cancer. “This is my disease too.”
A stage 4 diagnosis indicates the cancer has metastasized outside its area of origin.
The president of the Kiwanis Club of Chatham-Kent remains upbeat despite such a serious prognosis.
“I can’t wait to walk down the runway,” he said, admitting he’s never been to the event. “Some of my very good friends have been involved for many years.”
George said he and other cancer survivors will model some formal wear and casual wear, but “no bathing suits. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody – to see me walk down the runway in a bathing suit,” he joked.
George draws his strength from his memory of his wife, Jo-Anne, whose cancer began in her kidneys.
“She was my inspiration. She lived with cancer for 33 years,” he said. “Our son was only three when she was first diagnosed. She said, ‘I can’t die yet. I’ve got to live to see my sons grow up, get married and get educated.’ She refused to give in.”
The family had to understand how to address cancer.
George said finding a book on the disease changed the couple’s perspective.
“We discovered the book, ‘Cancer is a word, Not a Sentence,’” he said, referring to the Robert Buckman book. “It’s kind of the way we lived.”
But in 2002 she suffered a relapse and George looked after her until her death in 2013.
And now George has “the word.”
He is undergoing hormone treatment for his cancer, and will begin a round of chemotherapy shortly after the fashion show.
In fact, his appointment with the oncologist is the morning of Celebrate Life.
But that evening, George looks forward to the event.
“It will be a chance to share my cancer story and let people know cancer is a word, not a sentence,” he said. “It does need to be dealt with and you have to live with it.”
George urges people to pay attention to their bodies.
“One of the biggest reasons it has gotten to stage 4 is I ignored a lot of the warning signs as I was taking care of my wife,” he said.
Such signs for George were frequent urination, getting up several times a night to urinate and difficulty urinating.
“When I went to the doctor in October, I told him I was probably a little overdue for my PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test. He said I was two years overdue.”
The test revealed elevated levels and resulted in George being referred to a urologist for a biopsy, which let to a bone scan and referrals to the London cancer clinic.
George also plans on walking the victory lap at this year’s Relay For Life event on June 13.
Furthermore, he intends on visiting one of his sons next April where he lives in China.