Prostate cancer doesn’t stop couple from enjoying retirement

Woods Brown driviing a boat

Woods Brown pilots his boat around the lake at his northern Michigan home

Woods Brown has stage 4 prostate cancer, which may account for why he gets tired sooner than he used to. Maybe.

“I do wear out faster, but heck I’m 73 years old,” he says. “I can do pretty much what I want. We have a wood burning stove and I have a load of wood I can burn so we keep warm in the winter. I had some trees down from the latest storm so I moved that. We live on a lake and I go fishing.”

“We just bought seven forsythia bushes and he planted them the day before yesterday,” his wife, Jeanne, chimes in. “He doesn’t look sick. All along he’s had rosy cheeks.”

The Browns, originally from Philadelphia, retired to Evart in northern Michigan in December 2012. And despite the record-setting winter of 2013-14, they didn’t hesitate when asked how they like their new home state: “We love it,” they said in unison.

Woods Brown was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009 when he was the CEO of a manufacturing company in Philadelphia. He had prostate surgery and found that the cancer had spread outside the prostate. He had radiation therapy for 40 days and, with a PSA of 0, thought he would be finished with cancer. Six months later, it had spread to a rib and a lung. Eventually it was in the liver too.

“You hear about prostate cancer as a slow-growing cancer. Mine was not. I went to the doctor regularly for check-ups. My PSA moved a little and I went right in to get a biopsy,” he says. At that point he was already stage 4.

“Cancer can move faster than what is advertised sometimes,” Brown adds.

After moving to Michigan, Brown transferred his care to the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center where his oncologist, Maha Hussain, M.D., discussed standard treatment options and clinical trials. He elected the clinical trial.

“I don’t do good at singing and dancing, but I feel really good about being on a study. First of all it’s potentially saving my life, and second of all I am helping other people who may get prostate cancer. All I have to do is take my medicine and show up for testing. The only burden is the distance – it’s a 3½-hour trip to Ann Arbor,” he says.

“We’re retired,” Jeanne Brown says. “It would be a lot more challenging if we weren’t. It does take a full day when we’re required to be in Ann Arbor, but I get taken out to dinner.”

Brown says he has talked to his son and other family members about his diagnosis and the importance of knowing your family history of cancer. Brown’s brother died of liver cancer and his father died of cancer as well, although the family does not know the details.

“Take it seriously if you have anyone in your family who has it,” he says. “I’ve been passing the word as much as I can. I’ve run out of people around here.”

Learn more about prostate cancer survivorship and clinical trials:

Still have questions? Call the nurses at the University of Michigan Cancer AnswerLine™. They can help patients or their loved ones find a clinical trial or provide insights into the newest and latest cancer treatments. Feel free to call at 800-865-1125 or send an email.

* This story represents one patient’s experience and is not representative of everyone with prostate cancer.

A woman holds a sign that says survivorWhat does cancer look like? In this series of stories we explore the Face of Cancer – the patients, survivors, caregivers and health care providers who are redefining what cancer looks like. These stories celebrate the ways in which people continue to live their life, find purpose and stay true to themselves throughout cancer treatment.



University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer CenterThe University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan for cancer patient care. Seventeen multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.