Inspired by “Movember” (November is the month that is associated with raising awareness and funds for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer.) and with the season of giving upon us, we wanted to share a story about Mike Dunlap, president of Dunlap Marketing. The below article, written by freelance writer, Annette Baird, was published in the Houston Chronicle in June 2012. Mike gave his time and energy to raise awareness about prostate cancer. How can you use your talents and skills for the good of others this holiday season?
It’s been about two decades since he saw his first Ironman competition on TV, but west Houston resident Mike Dunlap said the impact of the competitors and their stories stayed with him.
Recently, Dunlap, 51, completed his first Ironman and has his own story, persevering in circumstances that might have stopped the less determined.
Since signing up last June to compete in The Woodlands Ironman, Dunlap went through surgery for a dislocated shoulder, a diagnosis of prostate cancer and subsequent surgery and a bout of kidney stones.
None of these obstacles weakened Dunlap’s resolve, and on May 19 he completed the grueling race, which involved a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run, in 13 hours, 52 minutes and 10 seconds, finishing 76th out of 133 in his age group.
However, it wasn’t his personal accomplishment that Dunlap wanted to bring attention to. Rather, he wanted to raise awareness about prostate cancer and the need for regular check-ups, especially if it runs in the family as did his.
“There’s a ton more information about breast cancer, which is terrific, as compared to prostate cancer, ” he said. “But it’s compounded by the fact that guys don’t want to talk about such a thing.”
Dunlap’s physician Dr. Brian Miles, a urology oncologist, recommended that men age 50 and over should be tested annually for prostate cancer, while men with a family history of the disease or who are African Americans should start at as early as age 40.
“Thirty-two thousand men will die this year from prostate cancer, ” Miles said. “Learn from someone like Mike that this is a real disease that can have an impact.”
Dunlap had set his sights on competing in an Ironman before he turned 40, but life and a passion for tournament waterskiing got in the way. The proximity of The Woodlands competition, however, was too convenient to pass up.
In shape from waterskiing and the Rummel Creek Men’s Boot Camp he helps run, Dunlap threw himself into a rigorous training regimen. But just weeks into training, he dislocated a shoulder and had to have surgery. Undaunted, Dunlap was soon back to cycling and running, holding off on swimming until his rehabilitation was over.
In the meantime, a routine check-up handed Dunlap a not-unexpected diagnosis of early stage prostate cancer. Dunlap’s father had prostate cancer, and two of his four brothers had been diagnosed with the disease just months before.
“I knew I was going to get prostate cancer, ” Dunlap said. “I was prepared to get it, but I was a little angry about the timing.”
Dunlap’s father eventually died of leukemia, while his brothers, ages 47 and 57, are doing well, he said.
Persuaded by his wife Meegan and three daughters to have the surgery sooner rather than later, Dunlap had his prostate removed in January and was lucky enough not to need further treatment.
His training schedule pushed back further, Dunlap admitted to feeling sorry for himself at times, but drew strength and inspiration from family friend 16-year-old Courtney Pette, who had recently overcome lymphoma.
“I thought about how Courtney handled herself against a much scarier challenge, ” Dunlap said.
Dunlap’s friend and fellow boot-camp trainer Lance Mosby never thought the cancer was going to stop Dunlap, despite the looming competition.
“Even after surgery, when it’s very sensitive to ride a bike, he was still going to ride a bike, ” Mosby said.
Ride, run and swim, he did.
Since Mike’s Ironman in May 2012, he has not slowed down much at all. He has participated in many running events ranging from 5Ks to a 200-mile relay race. His passion for helping others keeps him running on. In June 2014, he did a 50-mile trail race to raise money for Snowdrop Foundation, a non-profit that raises funds for pediatric cancer research.
When Mike isn’t on a training ride or crossing a finish line, he is busy being a husband, father, and business owner. In 1996 he started Dunlap Marketing, a Houston-based telemarketing firm that focuses on lead generation, appointment setting, and survey services.