I first met Brad Sellin 1990 at a regional wholesalers' convention in Boston. He was a manufacturers rep then and was leading a workshop on how New England wholesalers could increase their counter sales. He advocated self-service areas to the wholesalers, a few of whom thought their contractor customers would rob them blind.
The last time I saw Brad was in October at the NEX trade show in Chicago. He stopped by CONTRACTOR's booth, and we talked about the industry and his job as the executive of three regional wholesaler associations in the Northeast. In the course of our conversation, Brad told me that he was dying of prostate cancer.
He said it so matter-of-factly that I almost asked him if he was kidding. He's only in his mid-40s, too young for prostate cancer. And as long as I've known Brad, I've enjoyed his sense of humor and quick laugh. Unfortunately, he wasn't joking this time.
Brad said the cancer had advanced into the bone and neither radiation nor chemotherapy could reverse it. Medication could slow some of the disease's effects, but not its inevitability. Doctors were measuring his life span in months, not years.
Although I had resisted the urge to ask if he was joking, I did question why he was at a trade show instead of some island getaway with his wife and sons. Brad seemed to think that staying active and involved would be good for him. Plus, it would give him the opportunity to urge others to ignore their age and family history of cancer, to get an annual physical and to insist on a cancer-screening test called a PSA.
While most doctors will check for prostate cancer with a test involving a rubber glove, they also should do a prostate-specific antigen blood test, Brad said. He is making awareness of the PSA his personal crusade because many doctors won't administer the blood test unless the patient insists. Also, many insurance plans won't cover the rather nominal cost of a PSA, he said, although they will pay for expensive therapy once the cancer is diagnosed.
Don't get the idea, though, that we were having a clinical discussion. I was stunned and saddened by his news.
As Brad started to leave the booth, I experienced a feeling of helplessness. I told him that I wished there were something I could do to help. Brad stopped and said, "There is, Bob. Tell every guy you know to get a PSA."
Most of you probably don't know Brad. It would be a shame, though, if you don't follow his advice now that you know his story.