When septuagenarian Harry Bateman Blair — or “Bate” as everyone calls him — took power walks at Dadeland Mall and ran marathons he looked the picture of health.
After all, Bate completed his 75th marathon [26.2 miles] at age 75, and topped that feat the following year when he finished his 76th marathon at 76. And having participated in marathons in 38 states, he was on pace to hit his goal of running the long-distance race in all 50 states.
So he was as shocked as anyone when he got the diagnosis: prostate cancer. The aggressive kind.
“I had no symptoms whatsoever,” Bate recalls. “But my cardiologist was concerned after doing some routine blood work. My PSA level (prostate-specific antigen) was elevated and she recommended that I get my prostate checked.”
After a trip to the urologist and an MRI, he was referred to the offices of Dipen Parekh, MD, urologist, chairman and professor of the Department of Urology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine (UMMSOM), where Bate underwent a biopsy. “The biopsy showed I had a Gleason score of 10 in one spot and 9 in another,” he recalled. “This is not the way I wanted to be a 10!”
The Gleason score reflects biopsy results based on a grading system scale that starts at 6 for a low-grade prostate cancer and goes up to 10, for high-grade forms of the disease.
Dr. Parekh offered Bate the traditional options for addressing his condition – radical prostate surgery or radiation. Typically aggressive prostate cancers are not amenable to focal treatment with a non-invasive procedure called High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU). However Bate’s cancer was localized to one specific area based on biopsy and imaging. Moreover an existing clinical trial offered within the Urology Department at the UMMSOM made it possible for Bate to be offered the HIFU procedure.
With HIFU, urologists direct concentrated ultrasound waves to attack the diseased area of the prostate tissue to stop its progress – similar to how a magnifying glass can be used to focus rays of sunlight to burn a leaf. During the outpatient procedure doctors are able to avoid damaging the healthy surrounding tissue and nerve bundles that control sexual function and urinary continence, preserving quality of life, and making it a preferable option for eligible patients.
Bate was eligible for the procedure since his cancer was localized, that is, it had not spread beyond the boundaries of the prostate gland. “I had an aggressive cancer and they caught it in time,” Bate said. “If I hadn’t had the PSA test, it might have gotten worse and spread. I am very fortunate and I thank my cardiologist for saving my life.”
“I picked HIFU because it’s less invasive and I was in and out in one day,” he added. “And if it fails I could still do the other procedures. But if I had radiation or a prostatectomy, I couldn’t do them again.”
The day after his HIFU procedure, Bate went to a fundraising luncheon. “And I’m continuing my marathons,” he said. “I had the surgery in March of 2017 and did three marathons after that!” Dr Parekh cautions however that despite doing very well in the short term, Bate needs a close follow up as mandated by the clinical trial he enrolled into.
Bate turned 77 on December 22, 2017, and his marathon total is now up to 78.
Besides pursuing his goal to complete marathons in each U.S. state, Bate is also on a quest to see every national park in the country. Already he’s been to 340 out of 417 sites in the national park system including monuments, seashores, lakeshores, battlefields, and historic places.
Bate combines his visits to the parks with long-distance running events around the country and his oldest daughter, Kathy participates in the marathons with him. Bate’s wife of 56 years, Sue comes to all of the races and cheers as they cross the finish line. Their youngest daughter, Penelope often comes to the marathons to help cheer too. Together, Bate and his wife reared their two daughters and one son in the same house where they have lived since first moving to SW 46th Street in Miami 47 years ago — and now the couple also welcome their four grandchildren to the family home.
When he goes to other states for marathons and park visits, Bate still calls on old and new potential customers who purchase automatic gates and gangways from the company he started in 2007 — Bate’s Gates. His original company, Engineered Equipment, switched from selling materials handling equipment to automatic gates after facing a major setback when the big freeze of 1977 drove him out of the material handling industry because his biggest customers were citrus fruit packing companies.
Clearly, Bate was able to overcome that business setback with the same drive he brings to meeting his health challenges today. And as he continues training for more marathon runs in the future, it looks like there’s no stopping him.