By Jenny Song
Young at Heart
Donn Young refuses to let advanced prostate cancer interrupt his active lifestyle
By Jenny Song
But being on hormone therapy has its drawbacks. The treatment has basically put Young’s body into menopause, with side effects that include weight gain, muscle loss, sexual dysfunction and fatigue. Some men stop treatment because of the drastic changes in their quality of life, says Clinton, but “Donn actually used this experience to take on a very vigorous physical fitness program.”
Young hits the gym five days a week, working out with a personal trainer two of those days. A doctor friend once told him to rest, save his strength and avoid lifting more than 10 pounds. But “you don’t get stronger by lying down and resting,” Young says. “Some people say that it’s counterintuitive to fight fatigue by working out at the gym, but that’s how you do it.”
A literal poster-boy for working out (a life-size poster of Young at the gym adorns the halls of OSUCC-James), Young says exercise helps him maintain his quality of life. “My cancer doesn’t slow me down or make me hesitant to do something,” he says. “I can’t say, ‘Oh I don’t have the energy to do that.’ I do. But I work at it.”
Young, who stands more than 6 feet tall, possesses a sun-kissed tan that he probably got from riding his road bike. He has a gold stud in his left ear and is often seen around town wearing wild Hawaiian-print shirts. When he’s not at the gym or on his bike, he can be found making pottery at an art center in downtown Columbus—a hobby he picked up while in the military simply because he wanted to give it a try. He has acquired a few skills that way, actually, like sewing (he’s won awards for making outrageous-looking button-down shirts), woodworking (he can make everything from cabinetry to musical instruments), and Chinese calligraphy (he just wanted to learn how to hold a brush).
A chronic volunteer, Young—who has two daughters, one an adult and the other a teenager—has devoted a week of his summer each of the last few years to serve as a counselor at a Girl Scout camp. Using his background in biology, he gives talks about conservation and teaches 7-year-old girls how to hook bait and catch fish. “Here’s a man who wants to spend time with them,” says Young’s friend and colleague Jaci Holland, a nurse practitioner at OSUCC-James. “I think it will have a long-term effect on their lives.”
Though Young officially retired as a biostatistician at OSUCC-James two years ago, he’s busier today than when he was designing clinical trials. “Now that we are not burdening him with the most important statistical projects that went on at the cancer center, he has simply found other ways to utilize his tremendous skills and talent to really work on projects that enhance the lives of other people,” says Clinton.