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Faces of Prostate Cancer

Paddle 4 Prostate

Everyday Heroes

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Skip Ciccarelli, a 60-year-old survivor of prostate cancer, is a high school carpentry instructor at Shawsheen Technical High School in the Boston suburb of Billerica. On June 14, 2008 he set out on a 54-day, 1,700 mile kayak trek that took him from the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago to the Hudson River in New York City. Ciccarelli was determined to raise awareness for one of the most prevalent forms of cancer, second only to melanomas.

In 2002, Ciccarelli was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer and was told by his doctors that he had two months time before the cancer spread to other parts of his body. After consultation with a team of doctors in Boston, he placed his bet on surgery and won. He is now cancer-free.

"At the time I realized that I, like most men, was clueless about prostate cancer, I soon became flummoxed at how little men know about their own bodies," says Ciccarelli, a husband and father of three adult children. "I realize I need to use my own abilities to help raise awareness. By drawing attention to prostate cancer, I’m hoping more men will get prostate checkups and PSA screenings, and that more research will focus on this disease. When was the last time you heard someone talk about prostate cancer?"

Skip arrived at Manhattan's Pier 66 on August 9 - the seven year anniversary of his surgery.

Ciccarelli's journey took him through Lakes Michigan, Huron, St. Claire and Erie, the Detroit River and the Erie Canal before he started down the Hudson River. He covered up to 40 miles a day with days built into the schedule for rest and weather delays. The route presented some extremely challenging waters for a kayak. While on Lake Erie, an unexpected storm nearly capsized Ciccarelli's craft. He was assisted to Buffalo by some boaters who were also challenged by the weather. They ended up hosting him at their home for the night.

"It has been a gratifying experience. I was one man, but the support, generosity and personal stories of so many wonderful people who traveled with me in my heart lifted my kayak." said Ciccarelli. "Along the way I met hundreds of men of all ages and their families, many of who have been touched directly by prostate cancer. For others it was the first time they really thought about this disease. If I reached just a dozen men who are now committed to annual prostate screening and early detection, it has been worth the effort."

More information on Skip and his 1,700 mile journey can be found at www.paddle4prostate.org.

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