Ed Johner calls them a series of fortunate events, beating two cancers and helping raise $400,000 for cancer research in the years since.
Since beating prostate and kidney cancer in 2007, Johner has been the public face of Manitoba Motorcycle Ride for Dad.
On Nov. 14, he received the 2012 President’s Award from the national umbrella organization for his contributions to the cause.
"All I do is talk and I tell my story," said Johner, a Headingley resident, and co-owner of Windsor Plywood on Century and Main streets in Winnipeg.
"I really don’t feel I’m doing anything worthy of an award. I’m fortunate enough to be around to tell my story in hopes that I can create more stories like mine."
Johner’s diagnoses came by pure fluke, discovered in 2007 as part of a pre-op physical he underwent for what was supposed to be minor eye surgery.
"I was at the doctors, and he said ‘I haven’t seen you in over a year, why don’t we have a complete physical?’" he said.
"I said ‘Knock yourself out, I feel great.’"
A biopsy would confirm elevated levels of prostate-specific antigens which meant cancer. An ultrasound confirmed a shadow on Johner’s bladder was from a tumor on his left kidney. The cancers, which Johner showed no symptoms of, were surgically removed.
One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and Johner has done hundreds of interview and private sit-downs across the province stressing the importance of regular check-ups and men having an open dialogue with their doctors.
"Nobody wants to find out they have prostate cancer, but no man should ever have to die from it either," he said, noting 95% cases are treatable if detected early.
"If you’re diagnosed with cancer, it’s not the end of the world. Educate yourself, then get angry and fight the disease.
"It’s a winnable battle if it’s detected early enough," he added.
In 2009, Johner co-founded the local Ride For Dad chapter with his brother and long-time pals Moe Sabourin and Kirk Van Alstyne.
The one-day, rain or shine event embarks from Polo Park to the Assiniboia Downs before dispersing across rural Manitoba and ending at Canad Inns Windsor Park.
The 2012 event saw a record 834 bikers raising a record $126,000 — cash that stays in Manitoba and goes to local research projects and awareness campaigns.
Sabourin, who nominated Johner for the award, said he has been an important public face for the local cause.
Manitoba beats the national average in survey statistics gauging people’s response to Ride for Dad events by tracking how many people seek out check-ups with their doctors.
"On ride day, to his face when you see the number of motorcycles roll in and see what the event has become, it makes him really proud and it just fuels his fire," he said.
"It brings tears to my eyes at times."
Manitoba Ride For Dad is a tight-knit committee of current and retired police officers, firefighters and even Winnipeg Transit drivers, which has been crucial to its success to date, he said.
"We know what the goal is and we work to attain that goal, we’re very lucky to have that chemistry," Sabourin said.
The 2013 Manitoba Motorcycle Ride for Dad takes place Sat., May 25.
For more information on visit www.ridefordad.ca.