Cancer Is One of the Best Things That's Happened to Me, Says 20 Year Cancer Survivor

The journey cancer has taken one Genesee, Michigan man through survivorship

Author: Jasmine Brown

20 Year Cancer Survivor Rings the Victory Bell

“It’s kind of emotional when you’re diagnosed, you’re not sure where it’s going to go."


Life’s victories and memories, a prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment led Reg Tidball, from Genesee, to his calling. He enjoys being part of a support system for men going through cancer.


Reg Tidball and Wife Celebrate 20 Years of Cancer Survivorship

“If you can’t help somebody else, I don’t know what you’re going to do with your life,” explained Reg. “I gave a speech at the cancer celebration a few years ago, and the speech was about cancer rates and how it’s one of the top five best things that’s ever happened in my life. I firmly believe it. At first, it’s my first wife, my daughter, granddaughter, second wife, then cancer – that’s how I rate them.


“By having cancer, I’ve been fortunate to meet hundreds of superb people – cancer fighters, patients, you name it. I’ve had opportunities presented that I never would have had.”


One of those opportunities was leading the Us Too Prostate Cancer Support Group at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint for 18 years. Reg has also been the state coordinator for Reel Recovery in Michigan for 11 years. Reel Recovery is a free fly-fishing retreat for men battling and recovering from many different types of cancer.


“It’s kind of emotional when you’re diagnosed, you’re not sure where it’s going to go,” Reg explained holding back tears.


“[Reel Recovery is] basically a support group. There are little things a support group or somebody that’s been there can help you with. You sit there with 10 or 12 guys that had cancer of different kinds – it doesn’t matter what kind it is. We’re brothers. We’ve been there. We understand. You talk between each other, you solve some problems, you understand something a little better. I enjoy doing it.”


Reg was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the fall of 2000. He had just retired the year before. At that time, Reg said his urologist was monitoring his PSA level, but the level had jumped from around a 4 to a 10 in about six months. He knew of one man who had prostate cancer and received brachytherapy. When his urologist gave him the news of his cancer, Reg asked about this treatment. His doctor referred him to Hesham Gayar, MD, board-certified radiation oncologist at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint.


Brachytherapy is an internal radiation treatment. Radiation oncologists implant radioactive seeds into the prostate. These seeds release radiation into the cancer.


“It’s just that simple,” said Reg. “The dosimetrist figures out what you need, how many of them. It’s based on volume. I happened to need 150 of them and I think that’s the max. I went home the next day and that was it. No further treatments.”


Twenty years later, Reg returned to Karmanos to celebrate his survivorship by ringing the bell at the McLaren Proton Therapy Center, located right next door. Reg’s wife Judy, Dr. Gayar and staff from the McLaren Flint Foundation and the Hospitality House at McLaren were there to celebrate with Reg.


“Reg is an outstanding person,” said Dr. Gayar. “I first met him as a patient 20 years ago and he became a friend. As a cancer patient, he was an upbeat, determined fighter. He has become a leading survivor that has organized support groups, and he’s motivated and encouraged many newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients. It’s our dream come true when we see another patient beating cancer.”


Reg has not only found his place counseling other cancer survivors, but he has found a place among McLaren Flint that allows him to be of service. He often volunteers at the Hospitality House at McLaren, which houses patients going through treatment, as well as their family members.

Reg and Dr. Gayar Reuniting After 20 Years


“I’ll go over and paint at the House every once in a while. Whatever they need,” said Reg. “Everybody I’ve met in this organization, McLaren, are good people.”


As Reg gets ready to celebrate his 80th birthday, he plans to do something big this year but has yet to decide what it will be. He enjoys fly-fishing and plans to go to Alaska. He has also taken the time to enjoy life by challenging himself annually. Some of those challenges were driving a Lamborghini on a test track and flying an airplane for the first time.

Though he is enjoying life, he does not plan to stop being a resource for cancer survivors. He encourages the men in his support group, while also looking to encourage men outside of the support group about the seriousness of cancer prevention.


“[I] Plant some thoughts so they’re looking beyond the immediate crisis,” said Reg. “We lost a lot of guys in the prostate group, but many of them were older, and most of them, by far, never sought help early enough. Early detection is just absolutely key.”


Routine screenings are important to detecting cancer early. Speak to your primary care physician and visit to learn about the cancer screenings available at McLaren Flint.


Karmanos offers support groups for people touched by cancer.  Visit for a list of support groups you may join, including McLaren Flint’s online cancer support group, art and music therapy. Experience in art or music is not required.


For more cancer survivor stories, watch the Cancer Survivor Video, here.