Patient and doctor document prostate cancer battle, friendship in new book

While cancer is a devastating disease, a Montreal man and his doctor have documented how a diagnosis led to an unexpected friendship.

Jean Fils-Aime was diagnosed with the disease at 45-years-old.

“I was shocked, I was angry and I couldn’t understand why at my age I had prostate cancer,” he said.

Now, Fils-Aime’s cancer is in remission. But he and his doctor still see each other regularly. Along with radiation-oncologist Peter Vavassis he has penned a book, ‘Prostate Cancer in Black and White,’ detailing his battle, hoping to put a human face on the illness and to educate other men of the warning signs.

“If you wake up more than once to go to the bathroom to pee, if you are always under impression that your bladder is not empty and if you can’t prevent yourself from rushing to the bathroom, you should talk to your doctor,” said Fils-Aime.

As documented in the book, Fils-Aime only learned about those symptoms by chance, seeing a poster in a doctor’s waiting room.

“Just by chance I saw that huge poster and I was realistic enough to say ‘That’s me,’” he said.

The book also acts as a beacon of hope for men who receive a diagnosis. In Quebec an average of 12 men per day receive exactly that. During the month of November thousands of men grow moustaches as part of the fundraising campaign known as Movember. 

“The message is, it’s a journey,” said Vavassis. “It’s a journey between two people and this journey happens every day. This is the story of two people named Jean and Peter but you can find in a hospital a million stories like this one.”

Fils-Aime said he wants to assure other men going through the same battle he did that their doctors are on their side.

“Sometimes we have the bad, very unrealistic impression that the doctor is so distant from those cold facts, that isn’t touched by what the patient is passing through,” he said. “It’s false and the main message is that there is hope. That’s the title, ‘Prostate Cancer in Black and White.’ When you get your diagnosis everything is black but there is hope.”

The survival rate of prostate cancer is close to 100 per cent when caught early but that drops to less than 30 per cent if given a chance to metastasize.

“If there is only one person who will say because of you book I had a conversation with my doctor, that’s okay,” said Fils-Aime.