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Al Barracato finds the good life after prostate cancer

Al Barracato finds the good life after prostate cancer

Picture Al Barracato on a billboard. You'd see a dapper 76-year-old, with a caption that says, "I ran a marathon nine months later."

Yes, that's nine months after surgery for prostate cancer. And now, 15 years later, Barracato still advocates for early detection of prostate cancer and awareness of risks. In his case, he said, early detection saved his life.

Now in semi-retirement, Barracato spent his career running Adolph's Optical on West Market Street in Akron. He still goes in on Fridays -- only now it's to work for his son, Tom.

In 1997, Barracato pretty much lived the American dream. With three children, he and his wife, Donna, had a nice home, an established business and long-time friends, including his running buddies.

However, a routine doctor visit revealed a PSA test reading of 4 -- raising suspicion. In follow-up testing nine months later, the reading jumped to 7. A biopsy confirmed cancer and surgery followed. Ten years later, at the hint of small activity, Barracato received a series of radiation treatments.

Today, he looks great, feels strong and still jogs and plays softball. He also takes every opportunity he can to urge PSA testing for early detection -- despite the shortcomings of the test and differences in professional opinions on treatment options for prostate cancer.

"Get the treatment your doctor recommends," Barracato says. "When I get on a pedestal, it's about early detection. Especially if you have a family history, come on, be sensible."

Barracato facilitates monthly support group meetings for the American Cancer Society's Man To Man program.

program to help men with prostate cancer and their wives or significant others. His group meets the second Wednesday of each month at Stewart's Caring Place at 2255 W. Market Street in West Akron. Anyone who is interested may call Barracato at 330-858-4316 for details, or outside the Akron area, call your local chapter of the American Cancer Society for Man To Man meetings in your area.

Barracato also serves on the board of trustees of the The One-in-Six Fund, an Akron Community Foundation Fund.

"For me, there are good things that came out of this," says Barracato. "I appreciate my wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren a little more deeply. I smell the flowers and say "I love you" a little more often. I look at sunrises a little more differently.

"I believe life can be good, even after a diagnosis of cancer."

Once more, picture the billboard -- showing a happy, grateful man.