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Image of Peter Collins

Photos and text used with permission of
Peter Collins.

I am a former Army officer working now as a civilian for the US Army. I served in Texas and in Europe and now reside in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. My main hobby appears to be "living on the edge!" My wife and I are scuba partners, flat-water kayakers, and distance bicyclists-the outdoors is my cathedral; a bicycle seat and kayak cockpit are my pews. These activities refresh my mind and soul and help me reflect upon my main passion: cancer outreach.

I was diagnosed with prostate cancer on March 15, 2007, at the age of 48. The cancer was localized, advanced, and very aggressive. For the next two years, I stared Death in the face every day and, finally, Death blinked. Since February 2007 I have been blessed with the gift of time. I have had time to evaluate myself, my life, and my relationships, and fix the things I didn't like. There has been no detectable cancer activity in my body since March 2008, and treatment ended in July 2009. For the rest of my life, however long it is, every day will be a cause to celebrate. It has actually been a real adjustment to try to grasp the concept that I could possibly live the rest of my life without cancer.

My biggest fear is that I will forget the feeling of wondering if I will get tomorrow. Almost immediately upon diagnosis, I was linked up with a wonderful mentor. When, in turn, I was asked to contact another prostate cancer patient (who became my first Cancer Buddy), I did not hesitate. This was a way to pay back the generosity of my mentor. Since then, I have made myself available not just to prostate cancer patients, but to all cancer survivors and their families. Each new friend helps me remember the emotions of diagnosis and treatment and the uncertainty of living with cancer.

My business card lists me as a Prostate Cancer Survivor and Advocate. I have intensively studied prostate cancer and the various treatments. I was blessed to have an excellent medical team who took the time to answer all my questions and refer me to good information sources. Many other patients are not so fortunate. Because I have had surgery, radiation, and hormone blockade therapy, I can address each treatment from both an academic and an experiential point of view. I am also affiliated with several cancer advocacy groups. As friends die of cancer, I have expanded my ability to assist other cancer survivors and their families at all stages of the journey.

After working with other prostate cancer patients, I was approached by members of my treatment team, who suggested that I consider serving as a Consumer Reviewer on the Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Program. After visiting the website, I quickly applied. I have since served on three panels. I cannot say enough good things about my experiences with the CDMRP. The knowledge and insights that are shared in each room, and that have increased my own knowledge exponentially, are invaluable in the multi-faceted attack on prostate cancer and other cancers. I am extremely pleased with the lack of ego in the discussion panels. As a Consumer Reviewer, I feel it is my duty to regard the medical expertise and experience with the same level of respect I am accorded for having been out there "on the battlefield."

I have no illusions about just how tough an opponent cancer can be. It is maddening to realize that these rapidly dividing cells can survive the best technology we have been able to develop. I am living proof that battling this disease must be a relentless combination of diverse elements: information, science, medicine, faith, nutrition, and mental strength. As we continue to hunt for a cure, we must remember that the answer, ultimately, will not come from a single area of research-we cannot afford to fall behind in any area.