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Max's fight against prostate cancer

Max Keeping had some news of his own to share. At the end of CJOH's 6 p.m. broadcast, he announced that he has prostate cancer.

"It's been fascinating to deal with it," he said last night after the show. "I haven't been down. I haven't been depressed. I won't allow myself to feel sorry for myself. For most of my life in Ottawa, I've spent so much time with kids who have much more difficult challenges than I'm facing."

Mr. Keeping, 61, has been a constant on CJOH newscasts for more than 30 years and is one of Ottawa's most recognizable citizens with his colourful outfits and even more vibrant tie collection -- he made the announcement last night while wearing a cartoon sun smiling optimistically above a rainbow and children holding hands.

As he prepares for treatment, Mr. Keeping, who has been a regular at Ottawa hospitals for years, dropping in to visit the sick to raise their spirits and spearheading fundraising campaigns, will find himself in a very different role -- as a patient.

Mr. Keeping first learned of his prostate cancer diagnosis on May 30, the same weekend he hosted the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario telethon.

"I just somehow accepted it and said, 'You can't ruin my weekend. I've got kids who inspire me to deal with this. They have much more difficult things to tackle and if there's anything over the past 20 years that kids have taught me it's about living," he said on the newscast.

The cancer was discovered following his annual doctor's visit. He's been screened for prostate cancer for 11 years now and when he turned 50, started having the prostate-specific antigen, or PSA test, which measures a protein produced by the prostate gland; rising PSA levels can mean cancer.

Mr. Keeping has gone public with his illness to inspire others to get tested for the cancer, which affects one in eight Canadian men and is curable if detected early.

CJOH filmed his visit to the Ottawa Regional Cancer Centre on Tuesday. Dr. Gad Perry told him he has "a potentially curable cancer" because it hasn't spread from the prostate.

A relieved smile spread across his face. "I'm happy to hear that!" he said.

Mr. Keeping started treatment yesterday by taking hormone pills but he's still deciding between two possible treatments: external radiation therapy or a radioactive "seed" -- an implant that is inserted directly into the tumour between the rectum and the penis to kill the cancerous cells.

Dr. Perry told him the operation has only been performed five times in Ottawa and that it will be three to four years before he will be able to tell whether or not the treatment has been successful.

Mr. Keeping said he'll likely opt for the implant, which he read about in a book by former New York City mayor Rudolph Guiliani, who is a prostate cancer survivor.

Last December Mr. Keeping celebrated 30 years as CJOH's main news anchor. His easy-going broadcast style and natural ability to tell the stories of ordinary people have made him a favourite.

Each year he puts in 200 public appearances for the charities closest to his heart, including Child and Youth Friendly Ottawa, the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, the United Way, and many others. He's also set up the Max Keeping Foundation to help kids who slip through the holes in the social- service safety net.

During last month's CHEO telethon a hospital wing was named after him, a testament of his commitment to the institution. He also plans to keep his viewers up to speed, documenting his progress on CJOH over the next several months.

The PSA test used to diagnose his cancer is not covered by OHIP and costs an extra $25, something that irks Mr. Keeping.

A newly formed advocacy group, Early Prostate Cancer Diagnosis Ontario, is lobbying the province to cover the cost of PSA tests. Mr. Keeping said he had an argument with former premier Mike Harris on the subject during the election campaign four years ago. "He wiped the floor with me," he said.

"It's the best test out there for prostate cancer," said John Peck, chair of the Early Prostate Cancer Diagnosis Ontario. "The fact that OHIP doesn't cover it implies that it's not worthwhile."

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