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Rich Patterson: A Role Model Cancer Survivor

Rich Patterson, a prostate cancer survivor, cuts, splits and stacks about six cords of wood a year by hand. He's also an active blood donor who has given 100 units in Cedar Rapids.

A cancer diagnosis can impact a person’s life in many ways, both during treatment and beyond. Cancer survivors may deal with a wide range of effects as a result of their treatment including stress and anxiety, body image and sexuality issues and needed modifications to diet and exercise routines, just to name a few. However, keeping a positive outlook, staying motivated and taking advantage of helpful resources can help cancer survivors thrive in survivorship. One of our survivors, Rich Patterson, 73, of Cedar Rapids, has been a role model of these key traits since being diagnosed 17 years ago.

Cancer Diagnosis, Treatment and Surgery

In 2003, Patterson’s primary care provider had noticed his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level was rising. It continued rising over the next few years, and in 2006 Patterson was referred to Dr. Jonathan Rippentrop, a urologist with Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa. A biopsy showed cancer, and Patterson had his prostate removed. In 2018, Patterson’s PSA began to rise again and a tumor was found. He had a series of treatments at St. Luke’s Nassif Radiation Center, after which he was told his PSA was once again undetectable.

Thriving After Cancer

Patterson has always lived an active and healthy lifestyle, and continues to do so, as he knows that is critical for cancer survivors.

“I believe one should not just survive cancer, but prosper as much as possible,” shares Patterson. “I work to remain intellectually, physically and socially active and view that as a key to good health.”

One team member Patterson works with is Matt Schmitz, Nassif Community Cancer Center exercise specialist, who gives him exercise tips to focus on strength, balance and regaining stamina.

“Rich’s goal is to stay in shape so he can do everything he wants,” says Schmitz. “That’s what I want for all our patients. To have the ability to do all the activities they enjoy.”

Patterson maintains a routine of daily walks and gets plenty of steps in doing work around his home. He also lifts weights daily and uses resistance bands. For diet, he and his wife grow many vegetables and eat mostly chicken, fish and pork for protein. They most often bake, steam or roast their food, and rarely fry it. Other than the occasional glass of wine, Patterson doesn’t drink and has never smoked.

“Rich checks all the boxes for a role model cancer survivor,” says Schmitz. “Nutrition, exercise and communication with the care team is key. He follows advice well and is very upfront with any issues he may have.”

Staying Motivated

Patterson shares he has no trouble staying motivated, as he keeps himself busy.

“I’m an active freelance writer and serve on several volunteer committees. I hardly ever sit still for very long.”

As the former executive director for the Indian Creek Nature Center for 36 years, Patterson also finds advantages of nature, “I believe strongly in the health benefits of being in nature,” he shares.

Take Action

Patterson’s advice when it comes to life as a cancer survivor is simple: take action.

“Sometimes cancer strikes those who follow a healthy lifestyle. Get your annual physical, as well as screening tests appropriate for your age and gender,” he says. “And take action if tests indicate a need. Do not procrastinate. It’s also important to stay positive and physically, mentally and socially active.”

Are You a Cancer Survivor?

If you’re a cancer survivor, we’d like to support you in your survivorship journey. Any cancer survivor, regardless of when or where they were treated, is welcome to use the Nassif Community Cancer Center’s wide range of support services, most of which are free of charge. To learn more, or set up a survivorship appointment, call (319) 558-4876 or visit


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