Kirk Larson has witnessed firsthand how devastating and ruthless prostate cancer can be. He has seen the way the disease can burrow itself into a family lineage, impacting relatives of different generations. The first occurrence in his family line was his grandfather.
“My grandfather, Vorace Larson, was a second generation Swedish immigrant born in 1904 who settled on an Illinois farm. Talk about strength. At 70, he could shovel two tons of pig feed into an eight foot tall feeder without a rest,” said Kirk proudly.
However, his grandfather’s physical prowess couldn’t stand the force that was his prostate cancer diagnosis. “My grandfather was felled by prostate cancer,” Kirk Larson says.
Vorace Larson’s son and Kirk Larson’s father, John Larson, grew up on that same Illinois farm. Kirk describes him, saying, “My father, who stood on the shoulders of giants, was hired by General Motors in 1974 and recruited a team of chemists and physicists, many from Stanford and Berkeley.”
Kirk remembers the day in which his father announced at the dinner table how he and his team had found a way to improve air quality for Californians for generations to come. While he was working hard to better the lives of others, cancer had a different agenda. He was diagnosed and passed away with prostate cancer just as his father, Vorace Larson, had.
Having watched both their grandfather and their father fight against and pass away with prostate cancer, Kirk and his brother, Brad, decided it was time to get tested themselves. “My brother Brad and I had ample warning. We got tested, but we were both inadequately focused.”
However, prostate cancer would soon demand their attention, ensuring its spot in the forefront of their thoughts once again when, “Two years ago, my brother tested positive for prostate cancer. Shortly thereafter, my biopsy was found to be positive.” The two of them were fighting the same monstrous disease at the same time.
They were in this together, determined to end prostate cancer’s grip on their family tree for themselves, their families, and generations to follow. Kirk explains how, “Brad had his prostate removed at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, by the best surgeons in the country.” Kirk, on the other hand, “decided to receive high dose brachial therapy at UCSF in March of 2018.”
Hearing that you have cancer can be extremely jarring. It intervenes in your day-to-day life, changing everything around you as you know it. “Prostate cancer lives in silence. Men have a good chance of beating it if they catch it early, but they must have their PSAs tested earlier than they expect, and then they must track their PSA trends. It doesn’t seem important until it’s all very important, which may be too late.” Kirk Larson explains how, “The uncertainty of my diagnosis and treatment was stressful for me and my wife. The answers don’t come quickly enough but I was fortunate to meet others who shared their experiences.” Having the unwavering support of loved ones and friends can make all the difference.
It was in September of 2017 that Kirk first got involved with ZERO by joining the Sacramento race. He explains, “I decided to join the run and some of my daughter’s friends joined my team. I shared my experience on Facebook where others joined my team and contributed to ZERO. Multiple friends shared how prostate cancer touched their lives.” By working together to cure prostate cancer, Kirk has found strength and support in the camaraderie of those who have experienced similar battles. It isn’t an individual’s fight. It is a team effort.
Prostate cancer has left a devastating impact on the Larson family, but Kirk is working hard to ensure this disease doesn’t continue its path of destruction by staying on top of his health. He is also working hard to promote healthy habits, such as getting tested early and often, to his son and grandsons.
He speaks directly to them, saying, “Today, I want to talk to my son, Sean, and to my young grandsons, Kayden and Xander. Prostate cancer cares not for you or your dreams. It cares not if you planned to get tested, and it will grow in the absence of knowledge and action. I can say without challenge, my son or grandsons will solve any problem the world develops – they just need time. I beg you, fathers, give it to them. Give it to yourselves. Get your PSAs tested regularly and get a biopsy if needed.”