Prostate Cancer

Survivor Spotlight: Don Girvan

Don Girvan feels he’s been gifted with more time since his diagnosis and treatment for prostate cancer and uses the precious gift of life to spend time with family and write novels.

Resilience and Gratitude:
A Prostate Cancer Survivor’s Journey

Don Girvan’s life took an unexpected turn when he faced a stage four prostate cancer diagnosis over a decade ago. In the face of this challenging prognosis, he made the courageous decision to retire from his thriving pool chemical manufacturing business. This allowed him the time and space needed for treatment and recovery, marking the beginning of a profound personal journey.

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Photo: Cover art of Girvan’s first book

Upon retirement, the first thing he wanted to do was write a book. He penned the historical fiction book, Broadside. The book, as described by the publisher is, “A great action book with a wonderful love story! This historical fiction saga begins with a crisis in the life of Homer Harris before World War Two. Challenging experiences at the U.S. Naval Academy prepare Homer for a decisive role in the Merchant Marine and the U.S. Navy. Pearl Harbor changes everything when the American and German storylines merge during a desperate sea battle. The story leads you through interesting developments that include Australia, India, England, the Coca-Cola Company, financial institutions and the military industrial complex.”

While eagerly anticipating the potential television adaptation of his debut novel, Don is already engrossed in crafting its sequel. He works on his novels from his home in St. Augustine, Fla., where he resides with his wife Patty and their English Labrador Hershey.

The Gift of Life

Beyond literary success, what resonates most with Don is the profound appreciation for life’s gifts that emerged from his cancer journey. Recognizing the last decade as a precious extension of life, he views each day with enthusiasm. His perspective on survivorship has instilled in him a fervent desire to contribute to his community and relish life’s moments.

In retirement and survivorship, he was finance chair commissioner on the Anastasia Mosquito Control District. This group provides surveillance and control of mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases and provides public service about mosquito control by using environmental-friendly technology and techniques. Through this role, he has had fun and feels rewarded for serving his neighbors. He also has more time to spend with his grown children and grandchildren.

His military background as a retired Army Captain, honored with the Army Commendation Medal, further fuels his dedication to serving others. As a prominent figure in the local Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Don not only shares his insights on proton therapy but also extends support and guidance to fellow members navigating their cancer battles.

An Advocate for Proton Therapy

Don accompanied Christina Mershell of the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute to a presentation to one of the Northeast Florida MOAA groups. He thinks it is important to educate people about proton therapy as a cancer treatment option because it can treat many different types of cancer. He is also a member of the Proton Ambassador program.

Having undergone 40 proton therapy sessions at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, Don attests to its effectiveness and minimal side effects in his own journey towards better health. Grateful for the past decade, he remains vigilant with regular PSA level checks, underscoring the importance of ongoing monitoring.

“Ten years is a gift,” Don reflects. He eagerly anticipates his book becoming a television series and will continue to advocate for proton therapy and be an active member of his community.

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