After battling prostate cancer, Grayslake man helps other fight the disease

Robert Grady among 1,000 survivors honored at Cancer Treatment Centers of America

GRAYSLAKE – Recently honored by Cancer Treatment Centers of America as a five-year survivor, Robert Grady of Grayslake continues to battle the disease as a Cancer Fighter.

Cancer Fighters are patients, caregivers and those on a cancer journey who volunteer their time to support fellow patients during their cancer journey. Patients at Cancer Treatment Centers of America created the program several decades ago to help one another.

Impressed by the support he received upon walking into the Zion center after his prostate cancer diagnosis, Grady not only has become a resource for fellow patients, he’s now a voice for Cancer Treatment Centers of America Chicago.

“From the moment I walked in there, I knew everything. I had everything at my disposal,” the 57-year-old retired SWAT team and field training police officer said. “I loved the idea that they had a predetermined team ready to fight with me. It’s just not the normal hospital. It’s very unique. And I just cannot speak highly enough about it.

“They take you in and they’re like, ‘We’re going to help you fight.’ "

Based in Zion, Cancer Treatment Centers of America Chicago, which is part of City of Hope, is among a national network of oncology hospitals and outpatient care centers. Along with surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and other treatments, the centers offer supportive therapies to manage side effects and enhance quality of life during treatment and into survivorship.

More than 1,000 patients from across the nation, including Grady, were honored Sept. 16 in Zion as part of a Celebrate Life ceremony. To commemorate the milestone mark of five or more years since they began treatment at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, the patients each were given a leaf to be added to a Survivor Tree at the center.

The survivors became emotional upon receiving their leaves, said Cathryn Ingram, communications specialist for Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

“To get your leaf, to be part of the survivor tree, represents life and stability and growth,” she said. “It was just a neat moment to see people taking out phones and taking pictures.”

Grady, whose parents both died of cancer, remembers seeing the tree when he first sought treatment.

“I said, ‘One of those days I’m going to be on there.’ It really is a big momentous moment to get on that tree,” he said.

The cancer survivors he’s met along the way, including those at the recent Celebrate Life ceremony, have inspired him. All were dealt what Grady described as “a bad hand.”

“And they take that hand and play it to the fullest,” he said. “You saw nothing but smiles.”

After both of his parents died of cancer, Grady said he always felt like he’d battle it one day. When he felt something was wrong, he listened to his body and got it checked out.

Diagnosed with prostate cancer in January 2017, he went into battle mode right away. He opted for surgery to remove the cancer as opposed to radiation. With his girlfriend of 30 years Dolly Vole by his side, he told his doctor he wanted to live and could take any side effects.

“My body is not an apartment building. I’m not paying rent. Therefore, I have to evict [the cancer],” he said. “It needs to go. That’s why I chose the surgery.”

A Cancer Fighter helped him know what to expect after the surgery, and Grady said he felt prepared, ready to tackle anything. About a year later, Grady became a Cancer Fighter.

As he sat among a group of Cancer Fighters, each told their story. They were among “the toughest people I’ve ever met,” said Grady, who served as a police officer for 35 years.

The role of helping others fit his nature.

“I said, ‘You know what, I need to talk to people who are first diagnosed with this disease because they’re scared. They’re upset. They’re angry. They’re running through the litany of emotions. They need to talk to somebody who’s been there and done it,’ " he said. “That was done for me before I went into surgery and it helped me immensely.”

Grady advises patients to talk to their doctor or team of doctors and to be actively involved in battling the disease.

He credits his surgeon, Dr. Sutchin Patel, for not only performing a successful surgery, but also making him feel safe and supported. Grady said he never felt rushed during doctor visits. The urology specialist told Grady after the surgery that he expected a full recovery and for Grady to get on with his life.

A fan of motorcycles, that’s what Grady has done as he’s begun to enjoy his retirement.

“I’m cured. What better outcome could you have than that. That is the ultimate gift they handed me,” he said. “I am just living life and I’m loving it.”