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Keith Hoffman is a Swimmer with a Mission

by: Laura S. Jones

Like many people who find their way back to swimming at midlife, Keith Hoffman is looking forward to taking his swimming to the next level at Summer Nationals. But his real passion is raising awareness about prostate cancer. Hoffman, 53, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the summer of 2009 and had successful surgery to remove his prostate gland two weeks later. In 2010, this member of Nitro Masters in Austin, Texas proved to himself that his life wasn’t over by posting a blazing time in the 100 breaststroke that was only a hair slower than his best time at age 45.

Even though he is competitive, he sees swimming as “his fitness for life” activity. Hoffman believes swimming helped to resuscitate his quality of life and his zest for life after his cancer and surgery.

Hoffman actually had to come back to swimming twice, once after cancer, and once previously after a 20-year break after college. A breaststroker at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he knew he wasn’t finished when he graduated in 1981. “I just wanted to do more,” he explains. Of course, like for many adults, that desire had to come second to other life obligations until 2002 when he made time to get back in the water. “It’s an interesting process, what your body goes through as it gets back in shape. You gotta pay attention and be happy at first with incremental changes.”

After cancer forced Hoffman to take another break from swimming, he knew he would make time for swimming after cancer; what he didn’t know was how involved he would become with raising awareness and funds for prostate cancer. Through a series of connections that started with him joining a survivor’s support group sponsored by US Too International, Hoffman became a volunteer consumer reviewer with the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), an organization within the Department of Defense. He represents the opinions of survivors on a peer review panel within their prostate cancer research program and helps decide where grant money should go.

“Peer review gave me what I was looking for, and gave me the opportunity to work with scientists who seek to eliminate prostate cancer,” Hoffman says. “I knew that I wanted to make a contribution at a higher level. Peer review gave me the feeling that I really was participating in the cause, and working with the CDMRP is exactly what I was called to do.”

This volunteer work fits well with his swimming, since a focus on men’s health is a part of both worlds. But Hoffman is quick to point out that prostate cancer affects women too, just not directly. Hoffman explains that while he took a businesslike approach to his diagnosis of prostate cancer, making an appointment for surgery, searching the internet for information and speaking with men who had been through the procedure, he almost forgot about his family.

His wife, Terri, was concerned about their ability to have children. With the help of a local sperm bank prior to his surgery and invitro fertilization afterwards, they welcomed a baby girl into the family on November 16, 2010.

Next on Hoffman’s calendar are charity swims to benefit prostate cancer, and swimming in all the major pools in the country is on his bucket list. But most importantly, Hoffman wants Masters swimmers to know prostate cancer doesn’t have to stop your swimming or your life.

For more information, a great resource is: cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/prostate

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