August 7, 2008

Kayaking Cancer Survivor to Finish 1,700 Mile Paddle in NYC

While Olympic athletes will begin vying for champion status this weekend in Beijing, Skip Ciccarelli, a 60-year-old survivor of prostate cancer, will complete his own Olympian effort. When he paddles up to New York's Pier 66 at noon on Saturday, he will be completing a 1,700 mile, 54-day kayak trek to raise awareness for prostate cancer--one of the most prevalent forms of cancer, second only to melanomas. The day also marks the seventh anniversary of his prostatectomy.

In everyday life Ciccarelli is a high school carpentry instructor at Shawsheen Technical High School in the Boston suburb of Billerica. This past Fathers' Day weekend, he became the champion of two million American men battling prostate cancer when he set off from the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago and headed for New York City.

Ciccarelli was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer in 2002. He 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 decided on surgery. He is now cancer-free.

"At the time I realized, that like most men, I was clueless about prostate cancer and was flummoxed at how little men know about their own bodies," says Ciccarelli, a husband and father of three adult children. "I later realized that I could 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?"

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 while reporting in earlier this week from Albany. "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."

"Skip's heroic effort is an inspiration for prostate cancer patients and their families," commented Dan Zenka, vice president of communications for the Prostate Cancer Foundation that based in Santa Monica, California. "Discoveries in prostate cancer research have made important advances possible. Many men afflicted by this cancer can now live longer, productive lives through early detection and better treatments. Skip is a terrific example of how much progress we've made. While there is certainly more progress to be made, we believe an end to death and suffering from prostate cancer is in site."

According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 28,000 men will die from prostate cancer and 186,000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2008. With the aging of the baby-boomer generation, the number of new cases diagnosed annually is projected to reach 300,000 by 2015--an increase of more than 60 percent--with an accompanying annual death rate of approximately 45,000. Early detection and treatment can result in a five-year survival rate of more than 90 percent.

Ciccarelli will complete his trek on Saturday, August 9, when he arrives at the Manhattan Kayak Company, located on the West Side's Pier 66, at 12 noon. More information on Skip and his journey can be found at

About the Prostate Cancer Foundation

Prostate cancer strikes one out of every six American men. The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) is the world's largest philanthropic source of support for prostate cancer research to discover better treatments and a cure for recurrent prostate cancer. PCF pursues its mission by reaching out to individuals, corporations and others to harness society's resources--financial and human--to fight this deadly disease. Founded in 1993, the PCF has raised $350 million and provided funding for more than 1,500 research projects at nearly 200 institutions worldwide. The PCF has been a pioneer in the grant making process, simplifying paperwork for grantees, leaving more time for scientific investigators to conduct needed research. The PCF also advocates for greater awareness of prostate cancer and more government resources, resulting in a twenty-fold increase in government funding for prostate cancer. More information about PCF can be found at