Prostate Cancer Clinical Trial Donn Young
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From Scientist to Survivor

A man who spent his career designing clinical trials becomes a trial participant.

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By Jenny Song

Young at Heart

Donn Young refuses to let advanced prostate cancer interrupt his active lifestyle

By Jenny Song



At the end of August, for instance, Young rode 180 miles in and around Columbus over two days as a member of the Pelatonia bike tour, which raised money to benefit cancer research at OSUCC-James. But such efforts aren’t really new to him: Young was already giving back to the survivorship communityDonn Young, partner Phyllis Kaldor and daughter Rachel a decade before he was diagnosed with cancer. For two years, he and Kaldor were coordinators of the local Relay for Life event, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. This year, the event’s organizers asked Young to be the keynote speaker. He walked on stage and made a poignant speech. “Ten years ago, I was up on the stage wearing the red shirt as the coordinator for Relay for Life,” he told the crowd. “Now I’m in a purple shirt as a cancer survivor. So you never know when you’re going to switch from one to the other.”

It’s a lesson he learned early in his career as a statistician with an office on the oncology floor of OSUCC-James. Interacting with patients every day, Young saw the impact that cancer has on families. Meeting cancer survivors from all walks of life—like a gang leader, a Methodist minister, and a homeless man who lived under a bridge—Young quickly came to understand what few people fail to grasp until the disease hits them at home: “Cancer doesn’t discriminate. None of us is immune.”

Though Young’s symptoms of cancer are now undetectable, he knows Donn Young on his bicycle he’s not cured. “Hormone therapy shuts down the tumor, but it does not kill it off,” he says. One day, the therapy may stop working and his cancer may spread, but he refuses to dwell on what-ifs. “There are a lot of things that can happen,” he says. “I can get hit by a bus tomorrow, but I’m not going to worry about it.”

Paraphrasing a quote by singer and lyricist Jim Morrison, Young shares his outlook on life: “None of us gets out of here alive. It’s not so much the quantity of life, but what you put into it.”

That philosophy was evident at Girl Scout camp this summer, where Young sat in a circle with a group of 7-year-olds playing the popular camp game “Down on the Banks of the Hanky Panky.” Recalling how he led the girls in reciting the rhyme while clapping in sync, he clasps his hands in delight, and exclaims, “That was the highlight of my year so far.”



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