SU2C Blog

Don Konantz: A Cancer Fighter Takes on IRONMAN Canada

Posted on July 22, 2015, 5:25 AM

Don on top of Haleakala Volcano
Don at the top of Haleakala Volcano in Maui training for the Ironman.

Don Konantz is 53 years young. He is a loving husband and father of four.  He’s athletic, lives a healthy lifestyle, eats organic food, and is training for the IRONMAN Canada at the end of this month. He also has prostate cancer, the most common cancer among men (after skin cancer).  He was 48 years old when he was diagnosed.

“I’ve learned that people are defined not by what happens to them, but by what they do with it.” Don has said of his journey thus far. What started as a kidney infection eventually led to his cancer diagnosis. “February, 9 2011, at 4:30pm, that’s when I learned I had cancer.  I’ll never forget that moment. “ Don recalled.  “It was like being on a train and having the track end suddenly, right in front of me. My life was derailed. My blackboard, with all my life’s plans on it, suddenly erased.”

Don's family
Don’s family. Left to right: son Geoffrey (16), daughter Victoria (19), daughter Emily (14),
wife Catherine, Don, son Willy (22).

After speaking with his doctor about his biopsy results, Don decided to face his cancer the only way he knew how, head on. He underwent surgery, followed by drug protocols, hormone treatments, combination therapies and radiation. He climbed the ‘Grouse Grind,’ a challenging trail in Vancouver often referred to as, “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster” everyday, for eight weeks straight, during his radiation.

Don and his wife, Catherine
Don and his wife, Catherine, on a training ride in Hawaii.

“My wife, Catherine, is the one who got me back on my feet at first. There is good evidence to suggest that exercise helps your outcomes so she asked me to do a Fun Run with her, and I did. That’s what started it all.” Don said.  He ran three marathons – albeit slowly - during his treatments “I remember, sending my doctor a note after one of my marathons that read: You are going to tell someone they have cancer today. Please also tell them that one of your cancer patients just completed a marathon. Just because I have prostate cancer doesn’t mean I have to go into a corner and die.’”

When Don was finally able to go off of his drug regimen last fall, he began to train for the 2015 IRONMAN Canada (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike followed by a 26.2 mile marathon).  “When I started training I could do one push up,” Don said. “So my training really began by getting out, getting the wind in my face and walking.” As time went on Don began building up his strength and endurance. Then he began a regiment of running, cycling, and swimming.

Don and his wife, Catherine
Don and his wife on another training ride.

Unfortunately, in December, Don’s cancer showed up again. “Cancer is such an emotionally and intellectually challenging disease. It’s merciless and it attacks anyone.” Don remarked. “I have been living my life in a way that I thought I would be exempt from cancer, but I’m not, no one is.”

Under the supervision of his doctor Don has continued training for the IRONMAN and he will return to active treatment in September. “For me, it is not about beating cancer right now; it’s about living long enough, so more track can be built in front of my train. We need to help these doctors do research to be able to lay more tracks down there, for myself and other patients to have more time. I’m feeling very optimistic about the future and continue to practice gratitude for the time I do have, everyday.“

Don and his wife at the SU2C show
Don and his wife on the red carpet at the last SU2C show!

Don’s story was also featured on the Stand Up To Cancer show in September 2014. His most successful treatment to date is part of the research work that is being undertaken by collaborating doctors on the SU2C Prostate Cancer Dream Team.  These kind of breakthroughs are what keep Don and the entire cancer community optimistic.  “I know that I would not be here, had it not been for cancer research,” said Don. “Anything that I can do to help my doctor and my team to advance our collective understanding of this disease means everything to me.”

We’re thankful for patients like Don that continue to inspire us to keep laying those tracks down and creating a future with more survivors in it.  The entire SU2C team will be standing proud and cheering for him as he reaches the starting line in full SU2C attire on July 26th, 2015 and updating the blog with his story from the big day.

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