It’s the kind of friendship that has managed to keep ticking throughout the many tests of time.
Many of the stories that still elicit fits of laughter date back to the sun-baked days we worked as carnies in Wildwood, New Jersey. We laboured on a wave-swept structure aptly named Fun Pier that extended far out into the ocean from the boardwalk that followed the beach line for a couple of miles. We ran the rides and worked the games of little chance seven dazed a week, often from noon to midnight, at which time we clocked out and headed off to our second daily pursuit, closing our favourite bar. To go into further detail wouldn’t be suitable for this or most other publications, whatever the demographic or target audience. In our defence, the statute of limitations on a boatload of questionable quasi-illegal activities, depending on who you talk to, have run their course.
The partner in crime in question, and mastermind of at least half of the shenanigans, is having surgery on his prostate as I cobble this together, and I want to wish him the speediest of recoveries. He’ll probably outlive me, mostly out of spite, and the opportunity to say “I told you so” one last time.
The long-term prognosis for the friend in question is greatly enlarged, thanks to the subject of one of my first stories for the Goldstream Gazette, way back on July 18, 2001.
If it wasn’t for Ken Willoughby, a bear of a man with a heart the same size, my buddy would have been heading back and forth to Vancouver throughout most of the ordeal.
Willoughby and his lovely wife, Jan, worked tirelessly to get a prostate cancer clinic built on the Island after Ken was diagnosed with the disease. Although Ken was given only 18 months to live in 1992, the Colwood couple’s steely determination led to the launch of the first support group for prostate cancer patients on the Island, which they ran off the corner of a table in their home. They never wavered in their efforts, which included organizing a march to the Legislature. Ken and Jan were officially acknowledged with the prestigious, much deserved Order of B.C. award in 2001. Sadly, Ken succumbed to the disease in 2006, but his legacy lives on in the countless lives, and counting (including mine), he has saved by promoting prostate cancer awareness and ensuring people on the Island don’t have to sit in a ferry lineup to get the help they need. I’ll never forget Jan asking me after I closed my notepad how long it had been since I got tested. I was in my early 40s, but it was an uncomfortable topic I had never considered. Since that conversation, I get it done every two years, say a silent thank you to Ken and Jan, and encourage friends and family to do the same.
The days when the probe and digital wriggle were de rigeur are behind us for the most part, thanks to advances in prostate cancer testing and treatment. In most cases, a simple blood test is often all it takes to make sure there’s no time bomb ticking away in your rear admiral’s quarters. Get ‘er done, live longer and prosper.
Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired local journalist.