Rick Wexler's Story

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Gary Papa Run Team Member Tops $2,000.
Rick Wexler heads to 6th run for prostate cancer research. All for the chance to dance at his granddaughter’s wedding.

The best Father’s Day gift Rick Wexler got in 2012 was experiencing the birth of his first grandchild in April. He celebrated by participating in his third Gary Papa Run in June of that year, raising more than $2,000 for the Urologic Consultants team and making him one of the run’s top fundraisers. He repeated this remarkable efforts every year since then, 2013-2016. while continuing to be an inspiration for our survivors and staff.

When Rick came to his first run in 2009, he wasn’t sure he would see another Father’s Day, let alone the birth of his granddaughter. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in September 2009. He underwent robotic surgery three days after his son’s wedding.

Wexler was healthy and in excellent physical shape when a routine exam showed a slightly elevated PSA (prostate-specific antigen) level. A follow-up exam four months later showed a higher level. At that point he was referred by his primary care physician to Urologic Consultants for a biopsy. 

“I never expected it to be positive,” Wexler says. “I was mountain biking with my brother in Colorado the day before. I had no symptoms.”

After consulting with his UC doctors, Wexler chose to undergo robotic surgery. “Even though I was 63, I expected to live to be 100,” he says. “I still do. I plan to dance at my granddaughter’s wedding.”

Wexler has been taking his message to the masses, and it’s paying off. In 2012, the year his granddaughter was born, he sent messages to former high school and college classmates in addition to relatives, professional colleagues and current friends, asking them to support his Run team. Many he hadn’t spoken with in 40 years.

“I was blown away by the response. A number had gone through a similar experience.”

In addition to raising money for prostate cancer research and treatment, Wexler was intent on increasing understanding of screening recommendations, especially for healthy men.

“I was about the healthiest guy I knew,” he says. “Recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (at that time) suggested that healthy men not be screened. If I had followed that recommendation I might not be here now. My cancer had already spread beyond the prostate gland. I was exactly the guy they said didn’t need to do this. I don’t believe for a second that I was over treated and didn’t need surgery.”

“Every case is different and requires individual consideration of the type of cancer and risk factors,” says Dr. Laurence Belkoff. “It’s important for all men over 50—40 if African American or with a family history of prostate cancer—to have a frank discussion with their doctor.” 

So how will Wexler approach this subject with his two sons and three nephews? 

“I’ve told them that they are at increased risk since my brother and I both have cancer,” he says. “I know when each of them turns 40. They will hear from me!”